Nashville's Brendan Leipsic (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Nashville's Brendan Leipsic is great at making enemies on the ice and even though his antics have gotten him in trouble before, it's hard to tone down a player who puts up so many points.
Colton Sissons is already chuckling and the question hasn't even been completed yet. Once again, his fellow Nashville Predators prospect is being asked about an incident from last season that found Brendan Leipsic in the penalty box for invading an opposing goaltender's personal space:
Yep: He. Drank. From your. Water bottle.
“I think I’ve been asked this a thousand times," Leipsic said. "It was a heat-of-the-moment thing. Probably wasn’t the smartest thing at the time, but something you learn from and move on. I know guys weren’t too happy at the time but we can laugh about it now.”
Laugh all the way to the Western League final, that is. Leipsic's junior career with the Portland Winterhawks included four straight trips to the championship series, one title and one Memorial Cup final berth. Drafted 89th overall by Nashville in 2012, the 5-foot-10 center came back the next season with a 120-point torching of 'The Dub' and added another 91 this past season. But it's his ability to get under the skin of his enemies that helped Leipsic earn the Top Agitator Award across all junior and NCAA leagues from the Edmonton-based Pipeline radio show (full disclosure: I was one of the voters).
“I saw that," Leipsic said. "It’s kinda cool to be recognized for that. As I’ve gotten older I’ve taken more of an offensive role, but it’s still a part of my game – I like to play on the edge. Sometimes I go over the edge, but it’s important to keep that even keel.”
The Winnipeg native's next challenge will likely be in the American League with the Milwaukee Admirals, but Leipsic is still going to do everything he can to impress new Predators coach Peter Laviolette when he gets to camp this fall. Nashville has traditionally let prospects marinate in Milwaukee, so the 20-year-old will have to do a lot of convincing, but at least he has a skill set that Nashville could use.
“My speed and my skill are my biggest strengths," he said. "I like to bring speed on the rush, but I’m good down low. For a smaller guy I’m good in the corners.”
Leipsic is on the smaller side, which is not uncommon for a Portland program that has achieved great success recently with other undersized prospects such as Winnipeg's Nic Petan and Columbus pick Oliver Bjorkstrand. The fact coach Mike Johnston utilized the speed and skill of such players is not lost on Leipsic, who credited Johnston with implementing a fast-paced system that reflected the roster.
Funny enough, Johnston won't be back with the Winterhawks either this season; he's the new coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Leipsic said the Pens will enjoy his old bench boss and the amount of work Johnston puts into his job.
And if Leipsic can develop himself at the pro ranks, maybe one day soon Johnston will be cursing what a good job he did with the Nashville youngster if Marc-Andre Fleury should find his water bottle missing.