Prospect Ramblings: UDNDTP x 2023 – The Top-10 Trio
This USNDTP class is as good as any barring 2019. There may be no future top-five center, or any possible 50-goal-scoring winger, but there is a very special trio of players.
I’ve personally been low on this entire USNDTP class for most of the season, but things are changing quickly. I’ve been particularly low on Will Smith, who is ranked as high as fourth overall on some lists, but can’t quite crack the top-12 on mine. Then it comes down to Ryan Leonard and Oliver Moore, who have both had stints in my top-10.
At the time of this publishing, I am taking Oliver Moore first, as he’s been especially impressive as of late. If there’s one thing the US program teaches, it’s translatable skills, which we’ve seen in players like Jack Hughes and Trevor Zegras. Moore is another case of this. He’s decidedly inside-driven, which is always a good sign.
Ryan Leonard may not be physically big, but he plays as if he’s 6-4. He’s very projectable as a complementary middle-six winger, with genuine top-six upside.
Finally, Will Smith is a great mould of a player NHL GMs love, as a shifty creative center with size and speed. He projects confidently as a middle-six centre, but I’d argue he has a lower upside than his two aforementioned teammates.
Moore has been a huge riser for me. He plays a game that combines elite speed and aggressive middle-driven play, a perfect combo for the modern NHL.
He thrives in transition, using his speed and above average puck skills. He’s incredibly shifty and can evade blueliners with ease. While some of these particular zone entries won’t fly in the NHL, there are some obvious translatable aspects.
His shot is equally fantastic, with advanced accuracy and great power. He can equally find great shooting lanes with his speed and intelligence.
In this particular play, he is the most dominant player on the ice. More often than not, Moore is the most noticeable player in the offensive zone.
Moore is a very complete player, who can only really improve on his play along the boards and overall strength. He’s becoming more easily projectable as a top-six player, and more than likely, a top-six centre.
Ryan Leonard may only be 5-11, but he could’ve fooled me into thinking he was a giant. He plays one of the most powerful games in the draft, and he has genuine upside to be a 70-point complementary first-line winger.
He may not be the living highlight reel like his teammates Moore, but he is very creative.
He’s incredibly intelligent, and he has a great shot.
There isn’t the true top gear that Moore has, but there’s a craftiness that allows him to be almost as effective in transition. He can evade players with his swift edges, and his powerful puck possession.
All of this combines for a player that would be a top-10 lock in any year other than 2023. He is a massive proponent to his linemates’ success.
It wouldn’t be just for me not to mention how cool of a name Will Smith is. But it does lead to some questions:
Will Smith go top-five?
Will Smith be a top-line player?
Will Smith be a centre at the next level?
I personally think the answer to all of these is no, but I’m somewhat alone on that hill.
Despite my questions regarding his upside, he is still a fantastic upside. It’s easy to make a connection to 2022 3rd overall pick Logan Cooley with Smith. Similar production in the same program, and several similarities between their games. Smith is faster than Cooley, but Cooley has the edge with offensive intelligence. I think it is more likely Logan Cooley becomes a star in the league than Smith, but in all likelihood they’ll both become great players.
Having at least one elite sniper on his wing at all times is a great bonus for Smith, who’s one of the best playmakers in the class. He’s intelligent enough to find creative lanes and make things easier for his linemates (not that Moore and Leonard can’t handle a bit more of a challenge).
His shot isn’t quite as dynamic as his teammates, but he can still fire the puck with some force:
Will Smith is the type of player that’s fun to take a bet on, since he can be relatively confidently developed into a middle-six winger if he doesn’t hit as a top centre. He definitely has the instincts to make him an effective NHLer, but it might take him some time to figure it out at the next level.
Next year he’ll hopefully get to thrive at Boston College. The only question is if they’ll keep him at centre, or throw him on the wing.
You can’t go wrong with any of these three USNDTP guys. In any normal year, all three are top-10 guaranteed prospects, and all have great upside and comfortable floors.
I have been low on them all year, but when watching Oliver Moore enter the zone so seamlessly, watching Leonard protect the puck like a guy double his size, and watching Smith pull off a pass that would make Connor McDavid jealous, it’s hard not to warm up to the trio.
Thanks for reading! You can catch me on Twitter with bi-weekly personal rankings updates @itovitch , and at the Puck and Roll Podcast!