Right wing Ryan Leonard of the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program's U-18 team is the newest member of the Washington organization, coming on board with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. A 6-foot-0, 190-pound right wing, Leonard hails from Northampton, Mass.

"Not a whole lot, honestly," answers Leonard when asked if he had any sense the Caps would be choosing him. "I was just kind of hoping and praying. It's even better that I'm staying in the red, white and blue. I'm really excited."

Leonard is the first American-born player Washington has selected in the first round since the Caps chose blueliner John Carlson at No. 27 overall in 2008. He is the first American-born forward Washington has taken in the first round since Pat Peake at No. 14 in 1991.

Like Carlson, Leonard scored on overtime game-winning goal to deliver a gold medal to Team USA in international play, scoring against Sweden to win the gold at the U-18 World Championship in 2023.

Leonard piled up 51 goals and 94 points in 57 games with the Development Team's U-18 team in 2022-23, leading the team in power-play goals (15) and shorthanded goals (three). He is headed to Boston College as a freshman this fall, one of six members of the Development Program - including both of his linemates - who will all be joining the Eagles' program as freshmen this season.

"Not only us [on our line], but there are six of us around the Development Team going to B.C.," says Leonard. "It's really exciting, and it's kind of comfortable, too, to go in there with five other guys that you're really comfortable with. So yeah, really happy for all of us."

Choosing in the top 10 of the NHL Draft for the first time in 16 years, the Capitals found themselves with a few strong options when their pick rolled round on Wednesday night. The 2023 NHL Draft crop is seen as one of the top groups in recent seasons, and there were multiple players still available whom the Caps would have been happy to take with the eighth overall choice in the first round.

"He's got a real interesting skill set," says Caps' assistant general manager Ross Mahoney of Leonard. "And then he can really score. I think he had 51 goals maybe in 57 games. He produced again at the Under-18 World Championships; he might have had 17 points [eight goals, nine assists] in six or seven [ed: it was seven] games, and almost a goal a game in the Under-18s the year before [five goals in six games] as a 16-year-old. And yet he can pass the puck, and he plays a real honest game. He's a real competitive guy.

"To be able to get that scoring ability, the playmaking ability, and that edge that he plays with, I think it's a real interesting combination."

McKeen's Hockey ranked Leonard at No. 8. Red Line Reporthad him at No. 11, as did The Athletic's Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler. NHL's Central Scouting Bureau ranked Leonard second among North American right wings and fifth among all North American skaters.

Leonard plays a well-rounded game, and he wrote "power forward," on his Central Scouting Service questionnaire in the "player type" entry. His strongest assets are "shooting the puck quick and fast," and in "areas to improve," he wrote, "playing away from the puck."

Leonard also enjoys playing with jam. He lists his NHL comparable as Florida's Matthew Tkachuk.

"I'm really excited," he says of coming to D.C. "I know it fits my style of play."

Leonard favored Bruins players as he grew up watching and playing hockey in Massachusetts.

"It was probably the big names growing up," he says. "It was probably [Patrice] Bergeron, [Brad] Marchand and [Milan] Lucic and all those guys when I watched [hockey].

"And then the kind of guys I [pattern my game after] are Matthew Tkachuk, Zach Hyman and Alex Tuch. I kind of like to pick and pull what they have in their arsenal and put it in mind."

Leonard belatedly added Tom Wilson to that list, after just a bit of prodding from The Athletic's Tarik El-Bashir.

"We haven't picked in the top 10 since 2007," says Mahoney. "Usually, we're used to being in the mid-20s, and you're kind of sitting and waiting to see if he falls to you a little bit. And so it was a little bit different. We kind of figured out who the first two or three players were going to be - No. 1 for sure - and then not quite sure about the order of the other two. And then I wasn't sure what would happen and who would be there. And so I'm really happy Ryan was there."

Leonard's older brother John is a member of Nashville's organization; John Leonard was a sixth-round choice (182nd overall) of the San Jose Sharks in the 2018 NHL Draft. John played his collegiate hockey at UMass-Amherst before turning pro in 2020-21. A left wing, John Leonard was dealt to the Predators along with a third-round pick in the 2023 Draft in exchange for Luke Kunin. John Leonard has totaled five goals and 16 points in 64 games with the Sharks and Preds thus far in his NHL career.

Here are the scouting reports on Leonard from a couple of our favorite longtime NHL Draft reports:

RED LINE REPORT: "He's an elite shooter who can pick the smallest openings. Has all the little things you can't teach: natural instincts to manipulate the puck and change shooting angles to fool goalies, the quick recognition of open shooting lanes, and the confidence to make the shot in a split second. Always has his stick in shooting position, and gets his shots away without having to stop or cradle the puck. Plays a complete game - good details off the puck and a fine two-way player. Has a compact, powerful build and will throw the body around the corners. Can really dangle with the puck, and if given any room in the neutral zone, he'll put defenders back on their heels and walk them right down. Reads off his linemates really well and works hard to get to the prime scoring areas - a master at finding quiet ice. One of the 3-4 best finishers in this year's class."

Projection:First line scoring winger who plays both ends

Style compares to:Kyle Connor

McKEEN'S HOCKEY: Is Ryan Leonard the straw that stirs the drink on the dominant first line of the U.S. NTDP team? Will Smith's skill and creativity are driving forces for play creation and Gabe Perreault's vision and spacing awareness are integral as complementary pieces, but there are many scouts who believe that Leonard was the most integral piece. His ability to play with pace, his physicality, and his two-way efficiency allowed that line to consistently be behind the wheel regardless of matchups. Also, a skilled finisher and play creator, it would not be a stretch to call Leonard the most complete forward in this year's draft class.

There is truly no area in Leonard's game that requires significant growth in order for him to be an NHL player. His linear speed is a strength, and his first step quickness is a characteristic that allows him to be so effective on the counterattack. He carries confidently and while he may not be the most creative player one on one, he protects the puck well on net drives and is difficult to separate from the puck. Leonard's strength on the puck makes him a great forechecker and boards player too, as he rarely loses a 50/50 battle at the junior level. Too often this year did Leonard make a hit to gain possession in the offensive end, allowing the U.S. to hold the offensive blueline and hem opposing teams in. One of Leonard's biggest strengths is his shot. Armed with an array of high-end shots, Leonard can beat goalies in a variety of different ways. His offensive zone anticipation and understanding of spacing helps him to consistently find soft spots in coverage and his quick release helps him to take advantage of those opportunities ... more often than not.

As a two-way player, Leonard's relentless pressure in puck pursuit helps him to be an extremely reliable defensive and neutral zone presence. While it is cliche, he simply never quits on a play and his physicality is a major weapon for him to help separate opposing players from the puck. It is for this reason that Leonard was used as one of the U.S.' top penalty killers this year on the U18 team. Leonard is also a great shot blocker; again, showing that he is the kind of player who is willing to do anything to help his team win. Simply put, Leonard is going to be a player that NHL teams will want in their lineup come playoff time.

The million-dollar question is ultimately ... what is Leonard's upside as a player who is really good at absolutely everything, but not elite in one thing? Can he be a first line winger the way guys like Gabriel Landeskog or Matthew Tkachuk are? Or does he fit into more of the middle of the lineup as a Brandon Saad or Nick Foligno type? If you're using a top ten selection on Leonard (and we firmly believe that someone will), then you definitely imagine that his projection is the former. Headed to Boston College (along with Smith and Perreault), Leonard will focus on improving his vision and playmaking ability. He should be an immediate impact player at the college level similar to how Cutter Gauthier was this past season. He should also be an NHL player sooner than many players drafted in the first round this year. How high his ceiling ultimately reaches will depend on just how much further his skill, finishing ability, and play with the puck develop at the college level. - BO