“Bizarre! That's the only word I can use to describe life
sometimes. Just freaking bizarre.”
-- James Patterson
"Big, quality scoring forward with upside." That succinct statement from TSN.ca describes Brett Leason, who just completed his rookie season with the Washington Capitals. Those were the qualities that might have put Leason on the Caps’ radar in advance of the 2019 Entry Draft, where he was taken by the Caps with the 56th overall pick (second round). After playing parts of three seasons with the Hershey Bears after he was drafted, he moved up to play almost half a season’s worth of games with the big club and staked a claim to being a fixture in the future.
Fearless’ Take… Well, he is the player with size that the Caps seem to covet. At 6’5”, 218 pounds, he might yet fill out some. Of the 11 rookies suiting up for the Caps this season, Leason finished tied for fourth in goals scored (three, with Aliaksei Protas) and sixth in points (six). He was third among the rookies in shots on goal (45), fourth in credited hits (20), third in blocked shots (14), third in takeaways (nine), tied for second in first goals scored (two), and was one of three rookies with an empty net point. And, he did all of this while averaging a modest 8:57 per game in ice time, least among the 11 rookies.
Cheerless’ Take… Leason’s ice time and team success were only distantly related. In nine games n which he logged ten or more minutes in ice time, the Caps were just 3-5-1. They were 6-6-1 in games in which Leason recorded two or more shots on goal. They were 8-7-1 in games in which he was credited with at least one hit…4-8-1 when he had one or more blocked shots. It would be hard to find more of a disconnect between a player’s crooked marks on a score sheet and team results.
Odd Leason Fact… Leason had points in five games this season. The Caps went 1-3-1 in those games.
Odd Leason Fact II… Leason was the fourth player ever selected by the Caps from Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League. He is already tied for most goals ever scored by a Prince Albert alumnus for the Caps (three). He is tied with the fifth player drafted by the Caps from Prince Albert, fellow rookie Aliaksei Protas (taken 91st overall in the same draft as Leason).
Odd Leason Fact III… Third time was the charm for Leason in the draft. He went unselected in both the 2017 (in which he was the 133rd-ranked North American skater) and 2018 Entry Drafts (unranked in 2018) before he was taken by the Caps in 2019 (25th-ranked North American skater).
Game to Remember… November 1st at Tampa Bay. For a rookie, it has to be the game in which he scored his first NHL goal. And, it happened to be consistent with what was, at times, a bizarre season for the rookie. It came in Tampa in the first game of November after the Caps went undefeated in regulation in October (5-0-3). It was the first goal of the game against the Lightning, just 73 seconds into the contest. Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev tried to work the puck out of danger from behind his own net, but he managed only advance it as far as Taylor Raddysh, who was being covered by Nick Jensen pinching in from the right point. The puck slid free and up to Leason at the point. He took what looked like a harmless shot from the right-wing boards, but after going between the legs of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Victor Hedman redirected the puck past his own goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Leason became the 397th player in Caps history to score a goal. The bizarre part? It was the first of only ten shifts for Leason for the game in which he compiled a team low 5:58 in ice time, only 32 seconds of which – one shift – were recorded in the third period. And, the Caps lost, 3-2, their first loss in regulation of the season.
Game to Forget… January 24th vs. Vegas. A late January game in Washington against the Vegas Golden Knights added a chapter to the sometimes bizarre season Brett Leason had. In six games leading up to this matchup, the Caps alternated wins and losses. Leason played in five of them after he was activated from the taxi squad on January 13th, going scoreless with an even rating while averaging 10:42 in ice time. He would get less than half of that ice time in this contest and did not skate a shift in the third period. Unsurprisingly, his score sheet line was largely blank. One shot attempt (shot on goal), one takeaway, and one blocked shot in 5:02 in ice time spread over seven shifts. It would be in the only game all season in which the Caps were shut out, 1-0, extending their run of alternating wins and losses
Postseason… Leason dressed for one playoff game, Game 2 in the opening round loss to Florida. No shot attempts, no points, one credited hit, and a minus-1 rating in 8:17 in ice time. A taste of what the second season looks like.
Looking Ahead… Leason completed his entry level contract in 2021-2022 season and is a restricted free agent without arbitration eligibility. Whether he gets an offer from the Caps greater than that of his $842,500 cap hit in his entry level deal might depend as much on the potential he exhibited in Canadian junior hockey as his 36-game stint with the Caps this season. In 2018-2019, Leason went 36-53-89, plus-55, in 55 regular season games with Western Hockey League champion Prince Albert, more than doubling his goal total from the previous season (15) and almost three times the point total he recorded (32).
In the End…
While he might never reach the level of production he had in his final year in juniors in the NHL, if he can raise his offensive game, he could help ease the transition to the next generation of Capitals and become a part of the new core cadre of players. At any rate, his rookie season might be remembered as one of the more unconventional in recent Caps history.