In the first of many steps towards a rebuild, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally pulled the trigger on a deal Sunday by sending defenceman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for a 2015 first-round pick, veteran centre Olli Jokinen plus prospect Brendan Leipsic.
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Acquiring the pick — which will be a low first rounder — and Jokinen was integral to completing this trade, but at the centre of the deal is an interesting prospect.
With that in mind, here’s what Maple Leafs fans need to know about Leipsic.
Weight: 165 pounds
Drafted: 89th overall by Predators in 2012
Contract status: Entry-level deal. Set to be RFA in 2017
He has enjoyed early success as a youngster in the AHL
It’s somewhat rare for a a 20-year-old to come out of junior and have instant success in the American Hockey League, but the Winnipeg native has managed to do just that. In 47 games with the Milwaukee Admirals this season, Leipsic had seven goals, 28 assists and 16 penalty minutes.
His 35 points has him sitting fourth in AHL rookie scoring, one spot behind another Leafs prospect, Connor Brown, who has 39 points in 49 games with the Toronto Marlies. Leipsic will report to the Marlies and it has some thinking he could form a formidable line with Brown on the Leafs’ farm team.
He had an outstanding junior career
In four years with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League, Leipsic racked up 132 goals, 170 assists for 302 points in 261 games. His 120 points in 68 games during the 2012-13 campaign led the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring. That season, he helped lead his team — a roster that also featured Seth Jones, Nicolas Petan, Ty Rattie and Derrick Pouliot — to a WHL championship and Memorial Cup final appearance.
He is annoying
There’s something to be said about a player that can get under the skin of his opponents and Leipsic is certainly one of those players. While his teammates and coaches laud his skill set and enjoy his personality, they openly admit he is “the most annoying prospect in hockey.”
Predators GM David Poile has compared him to Jordin Tootoo and Brad Marchand in the past.
Want an example of why Leipsic is considered “annoying” by some? Last season, he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for drinking from the water bottle of an opposing goalie.
He was mentored by Teemu Selanne
While growing up in Winnipeg, his mother Kathleen became friends with Selanne’s wife and it afforded Leipsic the opportunity to workout with the future Hall of Famer as a teen.
“It was really cool being able to talk to and skate with someone as good as him,” Leipsic told Yahoo! Sports in 2012. “He’s been a big influence on me. I was able to learn a lot from him growing up and see what it takes to get to the NHL.”
He has athletics in his blood
Not only did his mother help introduce him to Selanne, she was a gymnast who represented Canada at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics.
He has a few ties to the Maple Leafs organization
Leipsic was junior teammates with current Marlies forward Brad Ross and played with former Maple Leafs Ian White and Viktor Stalberg with the Admirals this season.