PW_BrendanLeipsic_1_1020SCOTT TAYLOR, MyToba.ca
Photos courtesy Portland Winterhawks

Winnipeg’s Brendan Leipsic knows that at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he’s a little undersized for today’s NHL. Still, the team that drafted him, the Nashville Predators, think enough of him to consider including him in their promotional plans for 2014-15.

On Saturday, Aug. 23, Leipsic will be one of the 33 NHL prospects and rookies who will gather at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto (site of the former Maple Leaf Gardens) for the 2014 NHLPA Rookie Showcase.

Now in its sixth year, this event gives Upper Deck — the official trading-card partner of the NHLPA and the NHL — with an exclusive opportunity to photograph many of the game’s top young prospects and rookies in their official NHL team uniforms, in shots that will be used for upcoming trading-card and memorabilia launches.

The group includes some of the hottest up-and-coming players in hockey: Aaron Ekblad (Panthers), Sam Reinhart (Sabres), Sam Bennett (Flames), Laurent Brossoit (Oilers), Andre Burakovsky (Capitals), Anthony Camara (Bruins), Nick Cousins (Flyers), Jacob de la Rose (Canadiens), Max Domi (Coyotes), Haydn Fleury (Hurricanes), Derek Forbort (Kings), John Gaudreau (Flames), Joey Hishon (Avalanche), Charles Hudon (Canadiens), Alexander Khokhlachev (Bruins), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Capitals), Curtis Lazar (Senators), Anthony Mantha (Red Wings), Brock McGinn (Hurricanes), Greg McKegg (Maple Leafs), Mirco Mueller (Sharks), Vladislav Namestnikov (Lightning), Darnell Nurse (Oilers), Brett Ritchie (Stars), Kerby Rychel (Blue Jackets), Hunter Shinkaruk (Canucks), Colton Sissons (Predators), Ryan Sproul (Red Wings), Teuvo Teravainen (Blackhawks), Chris Tierney (Sharks), Andrei Vasilevskii (Lightning), Alexander Wennberg (Blue Jackets) and Leipsic (Predators).

PW_BrendanLeipsic_2_1020To be included in this group means that the team which drafted you thinks enough of you to allow you to be part of an exclusive group of young stars who are expected to play in the NHL this season or next.

There are no young Winnipeg Jets included in the NHLPA’s list.

Leipsic was selected by the Predators in the third round (89th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He has spent the last two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Last season, as a 20-year-old, Leipsic had 39 goals and 52 assists plus 111 penalty minutes in 60 games (he had a rather lengthy seven-game suspension in the middle of the season for a ferocious hit on another Winnipegger, Keegan Kolesar) as he played on a line with Jets draft pick Nic Petan.

In fact, Leipsic shared the 2012-13 WHL scoring title with Petan, when they each put up 120 points.

“We’re both small, shifty players and we used our skill and speed to our advantage,” Leipsic told Game On Magazine. “We fed off each other and always kind of knew where each other was on the ice. We really enjoyed playing with each other and that helped.”

Leipsic now has to make the next step to the National Hockey League. He’s not big, but he’s a solid playmaking centre with speed and he’s completely fearless. That hit on Kolesar back in December was just one example of his ability to take on bigger players and come out ahead.

One scout said of Leipsic, “He’s small, but pretty energetic and he’ll hit anything and everything. He can really make life miserable for opponents. He’s offensively skilled and a good finisher. He’s solid on the power play. He needs to learn to play on the edge without going over the line. In the right circumstance, he could project to being a top-six forward.”

On a team like Nashville that is all defence with little offence, that circumstance could present itself in September.