Should Ryan Leonard Reconsider And Turn Pro?

The biggest burning question right now
Ryan Leonard, Washington Capitals
Ryan Leonard, Washington Capitals / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

When you have a clear number one pick in the NHL draft, there usually isn't a whole lot of questions when a team wins the lottery or gets the number one pick. This year is a little bit different. We all know who is going number one this year. If it isn't Macklin Celebrini going first it would be one heck of a shocker. There are no questions there.

The questions come from the shockwaves from the San Jose Sharks getting the number one pick.

Since San Jose won the number one pick Sharks fans have been on, what some fans are calling a "WSW" or Will Smith watch. Will he turn pro after just one season of college hockey, or will he go back for his sophomore season? That is probably the biggest question after the Sharks secured pick number one. With the exception of who's picked number two and beyond but that's obvious.

The shockwave reaches across the country however. If Will Smith turned pro does that mean the Washington Capitals would also get their most exciting prospect?

Ryan Leonard is a long time teammate, and linemate of Smith. We now know that Smith is in fact turning pro. That news breaking just a few hours ago from when I'm writing this. Does that change the plans of the Capitals 2023 first round pick?

The complications

Leonard has already said he is going back to Boston College for his second season. That was announced in the middle of April after the Capitals tried to get him to turn pro before the NHL playoffs and their series vs the New York Rangers. I think there is a lot of people out there that think out of that dominant BC line of Perrault-Smith-Leonard line that Leonard's game might be most NHL ready. Which might be saying something, because most people say Smith is definitely ready too.

While Leonard has already said he is going back to school, that doesn't really mean much. Players have changed their minds plenty of times. It happened just last year. Logan Cooley, of the then Arizona Coyotes, said he was going back to school for another year. Then later last summer he decided to turn pro. I guess just to finish that story for you, Cooley played in all 82 games last season, scoring 20 goals and 44 points.

It's happened before, it will happen again. Whether that's Leonard or not, that's the question for us here. Should he go pro now that his friend has left him and BC?

Well, here's one reason why maybe he souldn't first. With Smith going pro, now more responsibility will fall on Leonard's shoulders. He, his team, and his line are losing the highest scoring player in college hockey last season. He will have to be a leader on his team. He will need to be one of the guys picking up some of that lost production. Maybe being "the guy" on his team will be even better for his development.

Then we have to obvious reasons why he should go pro. A lot of people say he is NHL ready. His own NHL team said it looked like he was NHL ready before last season even began. He had a tremendous year last season. He scored 31 goals in 41 games. He also added 29 assists for a total of 60 points. He put up those numbers as a freshman. What else can you prove there?

Sure, he can go back and dominate again. But a lot of people call that a "big fish in a small pond" kind of thing. We all know you can do it. Now push yourself and go to the next level. It's time to play against professionals. It's time to learn what it takes to be a pro both on and off the ice. Go play with Ovehckin potentially. Go learn from Tom Wilson, who some might say his game could resemble. Go grow with McMichael and Lapierre and Miroshnichenko and others. Help make the team younger and more talented.

If Leonard wants to go back to school, then fine. I'm not going to sit back here and say, "What are you going back to school for? You stupid idiot! Dummy!" There could be a ton of reasons he wants to go back. Like we said, he probably needs to take on an even bigger role on the ice. The team was close to a national championship last season. He wants to go back and play with his friends that are still there. It's another year of school, another year of life experiences there. Yeah, there are plenty of reasons.

In terms of on ice, he's proven he can play well, and perhaps even dominate at that level. When you do that, it's time to take the next step. I don't think you could call it a wasted year of development. I'm not really sure you can do that. Maybe with the exception of something like a pandemic. A lot of guys did have wasted years of development with that. But it is a year that he could spend adjusting to the pro lifestyle and game.

Maybe Leonard could play a big part in the Capitals 2025/26 season because he spent 2024/25 turning into a pro in the AHL or hopefully NHL. Him making an bigger impact at the NHL level might be slightly delayed with him going back.

Or maybe he goes back and with the even bigger responsibility he turns into even more of a leader. Maybe that turns him into a long time captain for the Capitals? Who knows.

All we know is this. His long time teammate and linemate is officially going pro. Does that mean that Leonard reconsiders what he already announced? Should he reconsider? This could be an interesting summer. Capitals fans should now be on Ryan Leonard watch until we get concrete news of him going back.