Fans that like to keep a close eye on Preds prospects in Milwaukee and beyond weren’t surprised to hear that Brendan Leipsic, the Preds third-round pick, 89th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, was named Western Hockey League (WHL) Denny’s Player of the Week for the week ending Jan. 26.
Leipsic, currently in his fourth season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, recorded nine points (6g-3a) in three games last week. The Winterhawks came away with wins in all three of those games, strengthening their lead in the WHL’s U.S. Division.
Preds fans may not be all that familiar with the WHL, a division of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) that has teams all throughout Canada and the northern parts of the United States, a powerhouse when it comes to producing NHL ready talent.
“It’s as close as you can get to the American Hockey League or the NHL, it’s a challenging league and it has a similar style,” Leipsic said. “We play almost as many games as the NHL, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to come over here, it gets you ready for what that lifestyle will be like.”
In the Winterhawks’ game against the Everett Silvertips on Jan. 26, Leipsic recorded a goal and three assists on his way to earning first star honors, just one of many games this season where Leipsic’s name can be found atop the score sheet.
“Confidence is a big part of it,” Leipsic said. “I’m playing with a great team and with great line mates.”
A player whose playing style has been compared to Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, Leipsic is creating his own mold these days.
“You need to focus on yourself and trying to improve every day,” Leipsic said, part of the way he is working toward being his own style of player, and also a piece of advice that young hockey players can take with them as they learn the game.
While most of what he has done this season can be defined as “successful,” the Winnipeg, Manitoba native continues to work on ways to improve his game and make himself into a more complete player. While the score sheets scream success, Leipsic is currently working on refining his play in the neutral zone and being stronger on all sides of the puck.
“When it’s a tight game, and you’re up by just a goal, you want to be a trustworthy player in all those types of situations,” Leipsic said.
In the next few years, Leipsic will look to make his name even more well-known in Nashville, a city that he has visited only a few times during Preds rookie development and training camps.
“I think it’s a pretty cool city,” Leipsic said. “I think the temperature will be pretty nice, and getting to see the country music and the concerts.”
Until then, Leipsic and his Winterhawk teammates will look to finish what they started last year as WHL Champions and take home the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the trophy awarded to the top team in the CHL.
“We’re trying to get back there again,” Leipsic said. “We have a good opportunity.”
As the team works toward making that opportunity a reality, Smashville will be watching, keeping an eye on one of many great prospects in the team’s system.