Birthdate: February 15, 1994 (age 19)
Acquired via: 2012 NHL Draft - Round 4, Pick 117
Current Team/League: Portland Winterhawks, WHL
Contract: $808,067 per year through 2018 (entry-level, two way contract - slide rule pending)
Last Friday it was Marcel Noebels, today it's Taylor Leier. Apparently I have a thing for fourth-round wingers from the WHL. What can I say.
Leier, who turns 20 tomorrow, was drafted in the fourth round by the Flyers in 2012 with a pick they acquired in the Sergei Bobrovsky trade. At the 117th pick, he was picked just about where he was expected to be -- in fact, the midseason Central Scouting rankings from 2012 had him exactly at 117th among North American skaters, though he fell to 131st in the final pre-draft rankings.
Anywho, we've talked about fourth-rounders a bit in this series. Once you get past the second or so round of the draft, the Flyers haven't had a whole lot of luck at finding good players. And by "haven't had a whole lot of luck" we mean "have had basically no luck". And Leier -- who sat at just around a half-point per game for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks in his draft year -- didn't look at first like a guy who had a huge chance of breaking that habit.
But there's no doubting that things have trended the right way for the Canadian winger in the past two seasons.
Leier's been in a pretty good situation for a while now. His team in Portland is one of the best in all of Canadian junior hockey (they were WHL Champions last year, and are currently on a 14-0-1 streak). At any given time he's usually on the ice with at least one or two other guys who are quality prospects for other NHL teams. Two of the guy's he's spent a lot of ice time with this year -- forwards Nicolas Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand, both drafted this past June -- are first and third, respectively, in points in the entire WHL.
But even taking that into account, Leier's done a good job showing what it is he can do. After sitting at around a point-per-game mark last season, he's taken an even bigger step forward this year. He's already exceeded his goal total from last year in around 70 percent of the games (he currently has 28 in 46 games), and he plays good minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. Oh, and he's also the Winterhawks' team captain. He's got a lot on the résumé to like.
And that's not just something we think -- that's something that the folks at Hockey Canada think as well. Leier was chosen to Canada's World Junior Championship team this past winter. Considering that the decision-makers at Hockey Canada have more or less the entire under-20 hockey-playing population of Canada to choose from when picking those teams, and considering they usually end up being filled up pretty well with top-level talents and high-ceiling lottery picks and first rounders, it has to be a good sign that they pegged Leier as worthy of being chosen, even if he was 19 and his role in the tournament was just that of a fourth-liner.
Even beyond the boxcar numbers and achievements, Leier's an interesting prospect. He doesn't scream "high-ceiling", but he's got an intriguing skill set. He's not huge, at 5'11", but reports (c/o Hockey's Future) indicate he plays a good physical game for his size, and he combines that with good speed. Anthony SanFilippo, in a feature on Leier from last July's prospect camp, noted that he didn't even play in Canadian juniors as a 16-year old -- something that potentially indicates that the Flyers think he still has some room for growth.
Since getting eyewitness accounts on these kinds of players is always tough, I'll defer to this comment left by Portland-area BSHer Bosco 5 last October:
He does a lot of things really well, but I wouldn't say anything is spectacular. Even though he's not the biggest kid on the ice he's not afraid to go in the corners, and surprisingly he wins a lot of those battles. He always seems like he comes out of the corners with the puck. Yes, he is currently playing on the top line with Petan and Bjorkstrand. Don't let his playing with Portland's top offensive players this year fool you into thinking he doesn't create on his own. He plays on the PK, and even saw PK time his rookie year. In his first season here he played on 3rd/4th line and still put up .5 PPG while being counted on to shut down opponents top lines.
And lastly, I found this interesting from last December, when B.C.-based hockey writer Cam Charron said the following* about Leier in the midst of the World Juniors team selection:
Hear that? Even the stat nerds like him!
Overall, even if Leier doesn't look like a game-changer, it appears that people who watch him really enjoy his game and think that he brings a lot to the table. He'll presumably face another big leap next year, when he'll likely head to Adirondack for his first full season in the AHL.
* Link to actual tweet is not available, as Cam recently deactivated his Twitter account.
How we voted for Taylor Leier:
Who we voted for at No. 13:
|Zac Rinaldo||Robert Hagg||Nick Cousins||Tye McGinn||Zac Rinaldo||Tye McGinn||Anthony Stolarz||Marc-Andre Bourdon|