One year ago, it was unclear if Jake Leschyshyn, the son of former first-round draft selection Curtis Leschyshyn, was cut out for the NHL. The young forward had just finished up a disappointing season in which he registered a grand total of 16 points in 66 games for the WHL’s Regina Pats.
Clearly, there were some kinks in his game that needed to be situated.
During the 2016-17 season, though, Leschyshyn made a significant transformation. The 5-foot-11, 182-pound centerman had an explosive start to the year, scoring 17 goals and 40 points in just 47 games. Finally, things were moving in the right direction. He was scoring, playing solid defense and showcasing an all-around impressive game.
Unfortunately, Leschyshyn’s metamorphosis was disrupted in the blink of an eye. In a February contest against the Saskatoon Blades, Leschyshyn suffered a torn ACL and ended up missing the remainder of the season. Just as his draft stock began to rise, everything came crashing down to earth for the North Carolina-born prospect.
However, his ACL injury wasn’t enough to keep a team from buying in on his sky-high potential. With the final selection of the second round in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights took a chance on Leschyshyn. And if he ends up regaining his footing, Vegas could have an extremely compelling young player to develop.
Leschyshyn is a terrific two-way forward who can generate offense and also play a responsible defensive game. While he may look undersized on paper, Leschyshyn plays with a ton of grit and has no problem throwing his body around to make his presence felt both on the forecheck and backcheck. He has the defensive prowess to play important minutes on the penalty kill and showed flashes of expertise on the man advantage last season.
Of course, Leschyshyn still has a lot of questions to answer. How will he rebound after tearing his ACL? Will he regain his old form? If so, will he be able to build on his impressive 2016-17 campaign? With Regina’s leading point-getter Sam Steel possibly making the jump to the pros, will Leschyshyn be able fill his shoes? Leschyshyn still has plenty to prove and, as with any prospect, there’s a chance he may not pan out the way Vegas is hoping he does.
It will likely be a few years before we see Leschyshyn in the Golden Knights’ lineup. He will spend the 2017-18 season in the WHL, where he will be given the opportunity to continue his maturation and make a run at a Memorial Cup. But if he further proves he was worthy of the Golden Knights’ second-round selection, the 18-year-old could turn out to be an extremely useful player for Vegas down the road.