John Leonard made a name for himself in his freshman season at University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) as a naturally gifted and offensively dominant forward. He led UMass in scoring, finishing the 2017-18 season with 28 points (13 goals and 15 assists) and tied for second all-time in goals by a freshman during the Minutemen's Hockey East era. Leonard was also named Hockey East Player of the Week and Hockey East Rookie during his first season.
After a successful freshman year in the NCAA, the forward caught the eye of the San Jose Sharks organization. The franchise selected Leonard in the sixth round of the 2018 NHL Draft, with the 182nd overall pick.
The Sharks are no stranger to draft picks from UMass. San Jose drafted John's teammate, Mario Ferraro in the 2nd round, 49th overall of the 2017 Draft. Additionally, Leonard's selection made him the first UMass player to be drafted following his freshman season since current Sharks defenseman, Justin Braun was selected in 2007.
While Leonard was a key offensive player during his rookie season in Hockey East, he was still just that, a rookie. Leonard's work developing into a more well-rounded forward, both offensively and defensively was not done yet.
"The focus in his development is finding consistency in his play without the puck," said Greg Carvel, head coach for the UMass Minutemen. "He has grown as a player since arriving at UMass two years ago but still has room to grow in regard to his checking details."
John's game has evolved from his ability to score as he is becoming dangerous at both ends of the ice, assisting in a 28-9 overall record, a 17-1 home record and only allowing 77 goals, finishing second in the conference one goal behind Northeastern (76 allowed) for a 2.08 goals against average.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward finished the 2018-19 season with 36 points (13 goals, 26 assists). He was once again named Hockey East Player of the Week on Oct. 26, and ranked tied for sixth in points, ninth in assists, third in power-play points (17) and tied for fourth in power-play goals (4). In just Hockey East conference play, John was third in points (29) and tied for third in goals (11).
"John has proven to be one of the most offensively gifted players in the Hockey East earning Second Team All-League honors as a sophomore," said Carvel. "He's a committed kid and a good teammate. He can be a difference maker on any given night."
You haven't seen the last of John Leonard. He will certainly continue to make his mark both in NCAA hockey and beyond. To catch a glimpse of the Sharks prospect, the No. 4 Minutemen will take on Harvard this Friday, March 29th in the Northeast Regionals of the NCAA hockey tournament.