Brendan Leipsic came into this season with a plan.
The third-year forward from Whyte Ridge talked to Mike Johnston, his coach with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, about adding some more offensive punch to his game.
Leipsic didn’t just add some punch; he added a wallop.
The 18-year-old shared the WHL scoring title with his linemate Nicolas Petan as both posted 120 points for the first-place Winterhawks. Leipsic led the league with 49 goals, while the third member of the line, Ty Rattie, was next with 48.
"I was confident I could put up some decent numbers, but maybe not those kind of numbers," Leipsic said via phone last week as he awaited the start of Portland’s second-round playoff series against the Spokane Chiefs.
The offence was always under the surface, waiting to break through for the former AA and AAA standout with the Twins and Monarchs. Playing mostly in a checking role, Leipsic had 33 points in his rookie season, and last year he posted 58 points while playing a very physical style.
"I got away from the physical game a bit this year," he said. "I knew all along I had the skill and could contribute more offensively."
At just 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Leipsic never shied away from contact. But his in-your-face game landed him on the injured list a couple times, preventing him from helping his team.
"Playing that way takes its toll," he said.
That style was good enough to draw the attention of the Nashville Predators, who selected Leipsic in the third round of last summer’s NHL draft. The club told him that they could see him playing a similar game to Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, a feisty player on the smaller side who doesn’t back down and contributes on the score sheet.
Leipsic said hearing his name called at the draft may have played a small part in the success he found with the Winterhawks this season.
"It gave me some confidence (to know I was drafted)," he said. "But it was more of a dream come true than anything. The real work begins after the draft. It’s opportunity to maybe get to training camp, and that’s all anyone is really asking for."
Before Leipsic turns his attention toward the Predators’ camp, he’s focused on leading the Winterhawks to a Memorial Cup. The team lost in the last two WHL finals, but looks poised to get to the big show in Saskatoon.
He also wants to play for Canada at next year’s World Junior Championship, and to continue to polish his game if he’s back in Portland for another year.
"Going to the next level it’s going to be the little things," Leipsic said. "That’s what keeps guys in the NHL or keeps them out."