San Jose Sharks: John Leonard provides much-needed forward depth

San Jose Sharks (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks’ newest addition of young forward John Leonard gives the team the forward depth it’s desperately needing.

The San Jose Sharks faltered this season for a variety of reasons. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons for their massive disappointment was their lack of forward depth.

This was a primary concern heading into the season following the losses of Joe Pavelski and Gustav Nyquist in the offseason. The Sharks knew this was going to be a problem, but the hope was that the team’s young forwards could step up and fill the void.

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Evidently, that wasn’t the case.

On top of a disappointing defensive effort and inconsistent goaltending, the Sharks just didn’t have the offensive firepower needed to win games. That wasn’t helped with the losses of Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl to injuries either.

Going forward, the Sharks are going to need to completely revamp their forwards if they’re going to compete in the near future. That will start with an influx of young talent throughout the roster.

Fortunately, that influx started last Tuesday with the signing of top college free agent John Leonard.

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Leonard was originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft but opted not to sign. Evidently, it seemed to be a good decision as the UMass-Amherst product was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to college hockey’s best player this past season.

The exciting winger led the NCAA with 27 goals in 33 games and added 10 assists and 138 total shots. For his efforts, he was named to the 2019-20 College Hockey News First Team and named a 2019-20 Hockey East First-Team All-Star.

Leonard is just the type of player the Sharks need as their youth rebuild takes over.

The Massachusetts native is an extremely gifted offensive player with one of the quickest shots in all of college hockey. His former teammate at UMass — and new teammate in San Jose — Mario Ferraro had the following to say about Leonard’s skills.

"“John is a really special player. If you had the privilege to watch him play college hockey this year, it’s pretty evident he’s got a ton of skill and he’s great offensive talent. He really works hard. He wants to get better and better, and that’s the type of mindset you’ve got to have to get to the next level, and he definitely has it.”"

That work ethic is another thing that Leonard has been praised extensively for by his former teammates and coaches. And that’s exactly what could lead him to a roster spot next season.

If the current season actually resumes — which at this point seems highly unlikely — Leonard may be given a chance with the big-league club as the season comes to a close.

In all likelihood, however, we’ll see Leonard compete for a roster spot in training camp next season. He has plenty of college experience and likely won’t have to spend very long developing in the AHL.

The Sharks need NHL-ready forwards to step up and their minor-league system hasn’t provided many of those in recent years. Leonard could be just the offensive boost that the team is searching for.

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And Sharks fans could get a glimpse of Leonard as soon as this year.