2009 prospects: Nick Leddy

By DJ Powers

Position: Defense
2008-09 team: Eden Prairie High School
Shoots: Left
Ht/Wt: 5’11/180 lbs.
DOB: 3/20/91

If you don’t already know who Nick Leddy is, don’t worry you will. And you’d be hard pressed to find a better, more complete defenseman playing in the Minnesota state high school Class A/AA league this season than the Eden Prairie native. Leddy is also one of the early favorites for this year’s Mr. Hockey Award, which recognizes the top high school player from the state of Minnesota.

At Eden Prairie High School

Leddy is currently in his senior year at Eden Prairie, where he serves as one of the team’s co-captains. Coming into the month of February, Leddy ranks second on the Eagles team with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 18 games. His 20 assists and plus-22 also lead the team. He posted multiple points in nine of those 18 games. He’s been particularly dangerous on the Eagles power play, where 18 of his 27 points have come.

One of Leddy’s most memorable games this season came back on Dec. 23 versus Minnetonka where he posted the game-winner and added an assist to propel Eden Prairie to a 4-2 win.

Leddy began to capture the attention of many NHL scouts during his junior season last year, when he finished with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists). His outstanding junior campaign earned him a selection to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Second All-Metro team.

In addition to playing for Eden Prairie, Leddy has also played on the international stage. He was a member of Team USA’s U-18 and U-17 Select teams. At the 2008 U-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament last August, Leddy posted two assists in four games.

Like many of the state’s top players, Leddy had the chance to leave Eden Prairie to play Juniors. The U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Ann Arbor, MI came calling and the decision to stay in Eden Prairie was not slam dunk.

“I’d say that it was kind of easy and difficult because I actually wanted to go to Ann Arbor and play out there," Leddy said. "One reason was because one of my really good friends, Nick Mattson, is playing out there. He and I are really close friends. One of the reasons why I decided to stay here was because the state tournaments are really big here in Minnesota and I’d really love to get to play in it because I’ve never been there before.”

This fall, Leddy will be headed to the University of Minnesota.

“For me, it came to down to North Dakota and Minnesota. Just being a Minnesota-born kid, I always wanted to be a Gopher. It was just electrifying going to the games. I love the coaching staff down there and I actually got to meet some of the guys on the team on my first visit. So it was just quite an experience for me.”

In addition to Minnesota and North Dakota, St. Cloud State University and the University of Minnesota-Duluth also recruited Leddy. Surprisingly, no school outside of the WCHA recruited him.

As Eden Prairie head coach Lee Smith explains, the Golden Gophers have kept a close watch on the progress of their future defenseman.

“Well there’s no question that they’re paying attention," he said. "When we played out at Eagan, their assistant coach John Hill was there. During Christmas, (assistant coach) Mike Hastings was there and Don (Lucia) has been to some of our bigger games too. So they’re watching him for sure. Nick’s goal is to head to the “U” next year and step right in.”

With the growing attention from the scouting community comes the sometime unwelcome spotlight. Each player handles the situation in his own unique way, and for the soft-spoken rearguard, the attention has been a mixed blessing of sorts.

“It’s been a lot of fun because I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people, but it’s hard a little bit at times too," he said. "My dad will sometimes tell me that a certain scout will be coming to see me. I don’t really like hearing that because I get kind of nervous. So, I just try to keep it out of my head.”

Talent analysis

While many view Leddy as an offensive defenseman, he could potentially blossom into more of a two-way defenseman. His play is equally strong at both ends of the ice. Leddy combines superb offensive prowess with conscientious and responsible defensive zone play. He does an excellent job of taking away time and space from the opposition, and can also create it for both himself and his teammates.

One attribute that makes it all possible is his outstanding skating ability. Leddy is an agile skater with good speed and smoothness in his strides. This can particularly be seen in his transitioning and rushes up the ice. This past summer, Leddy added 15 pounds to his 5’11 frame. The result has enhanced his game tremendously, especially on the physical side.

“I worked out with Kevin Ziegler, who is a trainer with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Sioux Falls (USHL) all last summer and he taught me a lot,” said Leddy. “It was the first time that I had ever really worked out. I put on about 15 pounds of muscle on over the summer and my upper body has gotten a lot stronger. Last year, I had a lot of guys taking a run at me. This year, that doesn’t happen as much because if I see them early enough, I would be able to stand up to them and knock them over, so it would usually end pretty quickly. I feel that I’m more prepared now. I know when to hit guys and when not to hit them.”

“I think what the extra strength has done is given him an enhanced confidence and belief in himself and in his physical tools,” said Smith. “It has helped him to be more of an aggressive player than he was in the past. I think that it has been a real benefit to his game.”

While the added size and strength have taken Leddy’s game to a new level, it hasn’t taken anything away from his skating. The increased power has simply added to his speed and agility.

Another area that his added strength has also benefited is his shot. Leddy possesses a tremendously powerful shot. He can get shots to the net, but could stand to shoot the puck a bit more. Leddy’s passing skills are also quite good. He can make nice tape-to-tape and outlet passes. He is very poised and patient with the puck and has no problem moving with it.

Part of what makes Leddy such an excellent player is his great hockey sense. He sees the ice remarkably well and makes very smart decisions with the puck. But what separates Leddy from other high school defensemen is his acute ability to read and anticipate plays, particularly in transition. At times, it looks as though he is reading the opposing player like a book. His superb stick work also adds to it, whether in a one-on-one situation or taking away lanes on the penalty kill.

Smith compares Leddy to the former University of Minnesota standout and current New Jersey Devils defenseman Paul Martin.

“The closest guy that I can compare Nick to that plays in the NHL that is also from Minnesota would be Paul Martin. I think Paul is almost effortless in the way that he plays the game. The way Paul plays is the way that Nick plays for us in that the game he has the ability to make plays offensively and defensively, which is a great strength of Nick’s.”

One characteristic that Martin brought to the University of Minnesota in his collegiate days and Leddy could also bring to the University of Minnesota is the ability to control the tempo of the game. Leddy’s ability to set the pace has been particularly beneficial to his Eden Prairie team this season.

“Nick’s demeanor is so calm with the puck and he’s learned to settle things too, which has been fun to see,” said Smith. “He very rarely tries to force things that aren’t there. If he does, it’s sometimes because we’re telling him to take a chance to try and get a breakaway or whatever. It’s not something that he would do out of character. We’re just challenging him to do something special because he has the ability to do it.”

Although Leddy is one of Eden Prairie’s co-captains, he can best be described as a hard working, quiet leader that leads more by example. His constant drive to be a better, more complete player is matched only by his unwavering desire to win and make his team better. Leddy is the consummate team player that always puts the team first. And with so much attention being paid to him by the opposition, it also means that opportunities on the ice open up for his teammates. It is something that Leddy is well aware of and takes advantage of whenever possible.

“It definitely does and that’s probably the best part about it. I would definitely be willing to take a hit for my teammates.”

While Leddy excels in many facets of the game and can play in any type of situation, one area where he would like to improve is his play around the net.

“I’d probably say my play around the net is something that I want to improve. I want to play grittier around it and maybe be stronger with my stick. I just don’t feel that I’m strong enough around the net to take guys out. I’ve heard that from a few scouts. You can always get better at things. So it’s little things like that I’m trying to get better at.”

So how does Leddy describe himself?

“I’m more of an offensive defenseman. I love being able to find the seams and jumping up into the play if there’s a rush up.”

The senior rearguard lists the legendary Phil Housley as his favorite player and one that he tries to pattern his style of play after.

“Phil Housley was my coach for my AAA teams during the summers and I learned a lot from him. He’s also the guy that I try to play most like too. He’s just unbelievable.”

Who does Leddy like among the current crop of NHL defensemen?

“I’d say Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks because they’re both really good offensive defensemen and both are kind of my style.”

For Smith, coaching the talented young defenseman has been an absolute joy and he reflects on just what makes Leddy so special.

“Nick is a real humble player and he isn’t full of himself," Smith said. "I would say that people who’ve ever questioned Nick’s love or passion for the game would be totally wrong because he is the first guy on the ice and he’s always out there working on his game before anyone else is out there. He has stayed here because he wants to do something special for his high school and he feels like he has the opportunity to play and develop his skills here, and still be able to go on and become a great player. It has been a blessing for our community because it sends a message all the way through that someone can stay and still be (possibly) drafted by the NHL in the first or second round. If it can happen to Nick Leddy, it can happen to the other kids as well, and that’s a strong message.”

Outlook for the draft

Leddy is currently ranked 25th on Central Scouting’s Midterm rankings among North American skaters. Although he is projected to go in the second or third round, Leddy could potentially be selected late in the first round. He has generated more interest as the year has gone on.