Habs Top 25 Under 25: #6 Louis Leblanc

BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 28: Louis Leblanc #20 of Canada skates ahead of Jakub Orsava #27 of the Czech Republic during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Canada and Czech Republic on December 28 2010 in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The highest drafted forward by Montreal since Andrei Kostitsyn (although Lars Eller and Benoit Pouliot were selected earlier) and the biggest Quebec prospect taken since Guillaume Latendresse, Louis Leblanc has become something of a magnet for attention among Habs prospects.

Leblanc has followed a somewhat convoluted path as a prospect thus far, playing first in the USHL followed by a NCAA stint at Harvard which he then left to play as a 19 year old in the QMJHL. While he has never quite been a leading player in any of those leagues, in each case he was the best and most productive forward on the squad

Leblanc played very well on team Canada in a variety of roles and was one of the team's leading scorers despite minimal power play time. He was third among Canadian forwards in points (7 in 7 games), non-power play goals (3) and shots (16 in 7 games) and tied for 2nd in plus minus (+6) and may have been the 2nd most productive Canadian player off the power play (Ryan Johansen scored 3 times with the man advantage and was only +4 to Leblanc's +6). Overall, his performance was statistically quite similar to Zach Boychuk in 2009 and Brad Marchand in 2008. While often too much is read into short tournament performances, over the past decade being good enough to be a top nine player on team Canada is a strong indication that a player will be good enough have a decent NHL career, with those not making it usually hampered in development by injuries. Generally Canada is so deep in forwards that playing well enough make the team in a significant role requires a young man to have some serious talent.

He was less impressive statistically in the QMJHL despite being the leading player on a strong Montreal Junior's squad.  He reportedly played less minutes than most top junior players on a team with a balanced line approach and heavily defensive system.He was also the leading shots per game player in the QMJHL (4.706 over the next with 4.591) and comparable to leading prospects Sean Couturier and Jonathan Huberdeau in "dangerous shots" (scoring chances) per game (2.196 to 2.379 and 2.418). Lower goal totals is likely due to a combination of being "snake-bitten" and a year-long shoulder injury. His pre-injury scoring totals (~1.4 ppg) may be more indicative of his true talent than the full season.  


Leblanc_6_medium

Comparing Leblanc to the NHL equivalence of other forwards from the 2009 draft demonstrates that while some are playing at a higher pro level than he his currently, they do not appear to be supplying superior offensive production to this point. That some of Leblanc's peers are doing similarly at a higher level of competition is a bit disheartening, but keep in mind he is also a developmental year behind most of the players currently in the AHL or NHL.  It is notable that the two players that made the NHL last year, Jacob Josefson and Marcus Johansson were essentially force fed NHL minutes as a result of their team's depth issues at their positions. Josefson in particular was promoted despite unremarkable play in the AHL. 

 

2009 Draft bottom half first round forwards NHLE for 10-11 season

Draft #

Name

League

Goals

Points

Games

GPG

PPG

Projected NHL season

15

Holland

OHL

37

88

67

0.55

1.31

13.13

31.23

18

Leblanc

QMJHL

26

58

51

0.51

1.14

12.12

27.04

19

Kreider

NCAA

11

24

32

0.34

0.75

11.56

25.22

20

Josefson

NHL

3

10

28

0.11

0.36

8.79

29.29

22

Schroeder

AHL

10

28

61

0.16

0.46

6.05

16.94

24

Johansson

NHL

13

27

65

0.20

0.42

16.40

34.06

25

Caron

AHL

12

28

47

0.26

0.60

9.42

21.98

26

Palmeiri

AHL

29

51

62

0.47

0.82

17.26

30.35

27

Paradis

QMJHL

23

53

59

0.39

0.90

9.27

21.36

29

Ashton

WHL

33

71

62

0.53

1.15

12.66

27.23

 

 

Strengths:

Leblanc has a very balanced skill set and is a jack-of-all-trades but is master of only one, everyone I've read agrees he is a demon in puck battles along the boards due to tenacity and stick-work. Otherwise he is a good but not exceptional goalscorer that owns an effective shot and frequently generates chances close to the net because he is very effective at protecting the puck with his body and getting himself into good shooting position. He is an effective forechecker and defensive player who is also a solid skater. In general, he has something of every major skill set without being extraordinarily great at any of them. He may be either a right winger or center at the next level.

 

Weaknesses:

Leblanc does not appear to be particularly strong, which can cost him against bigger defenders. He's got a decent sized frame but is still very skinny even after a couple years work on bulking up. In order to compete against men he'll have to become physically stronger especially to play the grinding cycle game he favours. While he is a solid passer, there are concerns that as he generally only attempts simple plays that he lacks the creativity necessary to be a top line player.

 

Future Analysis:

Leblanc is most likely headed to Hamilton this year even though the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL acquired his rights on the off chance he returns as the beef up for hosting the Memorial Cup this year. Leblanc would is set for a big opportunity in Hamilton this year, as he is likely the most offensively talented center a team with exceptionally strong wingers for the AHL level. This should be a big benefit for Leblanc's adaptation to the AHL level. Palushaj, Trotter and Engqvist all look to be ahead of him on the call up depth chart, so Leblanc is unlikely to see much time with the big club. As such expect Leblanc to get a much needed 1.5 to 2 years of development in the American Hockey League before competing for an NHL gig.

Long term, Leblanc seems a pretty safe bet to be a top nine NHL forward, possibly as a solid complement to a second line. He could also falter and only become a decent third liner. The main question being how much offense he is capable of producing at the pro level.

 

#7: Danny Kristo #6: Louis Leblanc #5: Nathan Beaulieu
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