If you watched much of the Boston College men’s hockey team last year, you might have noticed how big of a problem the offense was. Unlike a classic BC offense, what we saw last year was mostly slow, not super creative, and overly reliant on one line, and sometimes just one or two players. There was virtually no depth scoring and if their opponent got to three or four goals on the night, it felt like game over.
That should no longer be the case in the upcoming season.
The three biggest names that BC added this season are Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and Gabe Perreault. All three were recently selected in the first round of the NHL Draft, with Smith going to San Jose at #4 overall, Leonard to Washington at #8 overall, and Perreault to the Rangers at #23 overall. All three are hugely talented prospects with tons of offensive upside, and they could propel Boston College men’s hockey into immediate contention in 2023-24.
What’s most exciting, though, and what we might get a chance to see right away, is the fact that these three spent all of last season playing not just on the same team, but on the same line. Smith, Leonard, and Perreault together were the top line of the US National Team Development Program last year. And to say that they dominated would probably be an understatement.
Leonard put up an impressive 94 points and 57 games and was a distant third among the trio. But Perreault and Smith both set USNTDP scoring records. After this past season, they are now first and second all-time in single season points for the team, having scored 132 and 127 respectively. All three players scored more than 50 goals. To put that in some perspective, Cutter Gauthier scored 34 goals and had 65 points for the same team in his season before joining Boston College. And the guys just below Smith & Perreault for that record are some seriously talented NHL players:
All three of Smith, Leonard, and Perreault also played with the USA U18 team at the 2023 Under 18 World Juniors. The tournament ended with Leonard scoring against Sweden in overtime to win the championship, and in the seven games the US played, all three players averaged more than two points per game. They produced everywhere that they played last season, and there’s no reason to think that is going to stop when the NCAA season begins in October.
For a team that struggled mightily to score at times last season, this is just about the perfect group of prospects to be bringing in. Whether Greg Brown decides to keep the three freshman together or not, BC will now have four recent first round draft picks on their top two lines. We’ll see exactly how they decide to start the season, but a power play that actually looked pretty decent last year could now include all four of Smith, Leonard, Perreault, and Gauthier. Players like Oskar Jellvik and Andre Gasseau, who looked like high-quality players for stretches of their freshman year, can now be part of the depth scoring instead of being relied on as guys who needed to produce on the top lines. Will Vote should have an easier time adjusting to the college game as another incoming freshman if he’s not being asked to immediately step into a spot on the second line. And there should be less pressure on the defense and goalies as long as BC is spending more time in the offensive zone.
None of this is to say that there won’t be some growing pains for any or all of these top freshman. Hockey East is a hard league to play in and at the end of the day, these are still going to be teenagers playing against some opponents who are four or five years older. But the hype around all three of Smith, Leonard, and Perreault is as high as it is for a good reason. From the moment they hit the ice for BC, they will be three of the most talented players on the team and once they get going, this year’s team should look a lot more explosive than the one we saw last year. There’s going to be a lot more high end talent on the ice once the games start up in a few weeks. We could be in for a very fun season.