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2019 NHL Draft prospect profile: Nathan Légaré is a goal-scorer

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The strong winger has a variety of tricks to beat a goaltender, but skating issues may limit his opportunities to use them.

Denis Thibeault/QMJHL

Pure goal-scorers are hard to come by. This is what makes Nathan Légaré’s value potentially high in this draft. After scoring only 10 goals in the 2017-18 season, Légaré’s production exploded in his draft year, reaching 45 markers over the full 68 games, and 87 points.

Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Date of birth: January 11, 2001
Shoots: Right
Position: Wing
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 201 lbs.
Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar

Légaré is on the heavy side. He may only be 6’0’’ but plays above 200 pounds. He already has the stature of a professional hockey player as an 18-year-old in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He is strong — stronger than his peers — and that serves his goal-scoring very well.

EliteProspects

He likes to hang around the net. He is hard to move from his position and can slip in between a fronting defenceman and the goalie to turn his body to the blue line. He then looks to bang in rebounds from shots fired from the point, and amassed a fair share of his goals this way.

Due to his build, he could likely retain some of that specific scoring ability against men, contrary to many smaller players who like to find goals in similar ways but would be easily moved from the net-front position by bigger defencemen.

Légaré can also drive the net from the circles quite well with his puck-protection ability. He isn’t very slippery or particularly adept at using his edges, but he can turn his back to defenders and cut in front while bringing the puck with him with one arm on his stick for a scoring chance.

Besides his net presence, his main goal-scoring tool is his powerful shot. On the man advantage, he starts at the point, but the Drakkar’s formation rapidly slides the puck to the opposite side of the ice to allow their trigger man the space to set up. He opens himself at the top of the circle and one-times pucks from passes coming across the ice or from the blue line.

He is precise with his slapshots, but he also scores with volume. As a rule, the right-winger rarely passes on an opportunity to get the puck on net. He actively looks to one-touch the puck as much as possible; which has the advantage of his shot flying to the net before the goalie is ready, but the drawback is some shots coming from less-dangerous locations or poor passes. That said, Légaré also tends to find ways to make the best shot possible out of those.

He is not one to dangle through a defender, or use a timely fake to create a lane in which to release. His puck-handling, while not being a weakness, doesn’t allow him to chain several moves into a quick shot. The shooter remains best when set up; his teammates know this, and he is often the first target they look for in the offensive zone.

But even if Légaré is at his best with one-touch releases — either snap- or slapshot — he also has a mean wrist-shot with added tricks to boost its effectiveness.

In the sequence below, in a game versus Charlottetown, the winger picks the puck up from the boards, enters the slot, and hides his intention to shoot — his feet are pointed towards the opposite boards — but turns his torso and shifts his weight in a second, using the flex of his stick to rifle the puck to the top of the net. The last replay also shows that Légaré changed the angle of his release mid-shot by opening his blade, which made his shot change from far-post to short-side on the goalie.

The sequence required Légaré to have the space necessary to walk into a shooting position. That might be the reason why we don’t see such displays from the prospect more often, despite having the arsenal to beat goalies cleanly with time.

Légaré isn’t very quick or fast. He hunches over in his skating, his feet slam the ice, and his heavy frame has him drag at times on the ice. While he sometimes makes up for his lack of speed by hustling hard to catch up to the play, his lack of mobility hinders some aspects of his game.

While he can protect the puck well, he can’t really cut back to gain separation from defenders and is forced to drop the puck behind him and play the cycle game. He can’t burst open for shots on net from passes below the goal line, and it leads to him defaulting to the front of the net or relying on sitting in a defender’s blind spot at even strength.

His skating also affects his two-way game. While he makes strong reads, has a good instinct for the defensive aspect of the play, and can lay crushing hits on the forecheck, he can’t take as good angles to cut plays with his stick as his faster teammates, which leads him to be late on the forecheck, forced to hit defencemen after the puck has already been moved.

From Mitch Brown’s tracking project

The advanced stats also point to a weakness at contributing to his own breakout, where he tends to hustle to get a head start out of the zone and will sometimes turn his back to the play in the process, not offering a good pass option.

The disparity between the threat of his scoring ability and passing ability is also illustrated well in the numbers. Légaré tops almost all shooting categories, but while he has some impressive flashes of playmaking abilities, it isn’t his forté. It’s not necessarily due to poor vision, but more to his desire to shoot the puck as soon as there is an opening, sometimes forfeiting passes to better-positioned teammates in the process. That being said, with a shot like he has, it’s hard to fault him for the tendency.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Dobber Prospects: #48
Elite Prospects: #42
Future Considerations: #44
Hockey Prospect: #53
McKenzie/TSN: #49
NHL Central Scouting: #54 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #29

Légaré has many holes in his game (like the vast majority of prospects), but his unique ability to one-time pucks in multiple different fashions, his build, and his net-front game, coupled with the desire to play well inside a system, will likely still have him picked somewhere in the second round. He is a good candidate for a team looking to develop a right-handed goal-scorer.