Brendan Leipsic was a month away from turning two years old when his hometown team left the NHL.
The Winnipeg native was a fan of the game. But it was a connection his mother made with a future hall-of-famer’s wife that helped shape Leipsic’s future.
“I grew up cheering for Teemu Selanne and the Ducks,” Leipsic said. “We have family connections to them.”
It was in the early '90s when Leipsic’s mother, Kathleen, met Selanne’s wife, Sirpa, in a gym. They became good friends and Leipsic got to learn how to play the game from one of the best.
At 5-foot-9, he’s constantly fighting the stigma of being too small. What he lacks in his size, he makes up for in skill and an edge.
“People say I’m an annoying prospect and stuff like that, I think I play the game the right way,” Leipsic said. “I think I’ve come a long way from junior.”
Leipsic spent four seasons with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. In the 2012-13 season, Leipsic won the CHL’s top-scorer award, registering 120 points in 68 games. But scoring at the junior level doesn’t always translate to success. It’s the difference between playing against boys and playing against men.
“He’s a dynamic player, a guy that’s played at a really high level, a lot of playoff series over the years,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. “He’s a guy we feel offensively can probably drive things through the middle of the ice. Certainly on the power-play, he’s an option for us. Our power-play hasn’t been strong for us so far.”
Leipsic has progressed well in his first year as a professional. His 35 points in 47 games has him ranked fourth among rookies in AHL scoring, just two points behind new teammate and fellow CHL top-scorer Connor Brown.
“It’s what I expected, there’s a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” recalled Leipsic. “It’s my first pro hockey season so there’s been times where the puck hasn’t gone in the net and there’s been times where it has been. I’m learning, just taking it day by day.”
Leipsic has developed a reputation of being one of the more annoying players to play against. While not a big guy, he plays big. A lot of that, Leipsic attributes to Selanne teaching him at a young age.
He’s been compared to other guys of his size currently playing in the NHL, like Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens and Brad Marchand of the Bruins. Leipsic wants to create his own identity.
”I’ve been compared to those guys ever since my draft year, I kind of just want to be my own player, come through the NHL and through the system here in Toronto," he said. "Those are great smaller guys who have had a lot of success in the NHL so those are good guys to look up to.”
Leipsic brings a unique ability of scoring and hitting that the Marlies really haven’t found in one particular player. He’s just what the team needs right now, and could be a solution for the Maple Leafs down the road.