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Ryan Leonard, Gabe Perreault and Will Smith Continue to Have Success Together at Every Level

By Sean Shapiro , 01/01/24, 11:30AM EST


The three Boston College teammates hope to help the U.S. to gold at World Juniors

At some point they won’t be linemates anymore. 

In fact, based on their respective draft positions, sooner than later Boston College freshmen Ryan Leonard, Gabe Perreault and Will Smith will be friendly rivals in the NHL. 

But for now, the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden, has included another chapter to be written for the talented trio.

Will Smith

Ryan Leonard

Gabe Perreault

“It’s been a pretty cool story. I mean, some people said it’s kind of like a movie about how we’ve gone from every level together and just as a line too,” Leonard said. 

Leonard, Perreault and Smith have been frequent linemates since they joined forces as part of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-17 Team in 2021.

After showing strong chemistry that season as 17-year-olds, the trio set scoring records as a unit the following year with the Under-18 team.

Perreault set an NTDP record with 132 points during the 2022-23 season, while Smith had 127, which also surpassed Auston Matthews’ prior record of 117. Leonard had 94 points, 12th best in program history, with 51 of those points being goals. 

All three were then drafted in the first round at the 2023 NHL Draft — Smith went No. 4 overall to the San Jose Sharks; Leonard went No. 8 to the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers picked Perreault with the 23rd overall selection.

Now in their first year at Boston College, they’ve continued to light up the scoreboard. 

Perreault leads the Eagles with 25 points in 17 games, while Smith isn’t far behind with 23 points. Leonard paces the trio with 10 goals to go along with eight assists. 

The Eagles are the youngest team in college hockey based on average age, but are also ranked No. 1 in the most recent USA Hockey/The Rink Live College Hockey poll in large part because of that line. 

Therefore, it only makes sense that they’ve been grouped together for the World Juniors. 

But why does the line work so well?

“We all bring something different to the table,” Perreault said. “We’re kind of players that work hard and like when we get the pucks in the corner and dig it out. We are all kind of similar in knowing where each other is going to be. Obviously those two years [at the NTDP] just helped us grow that chemistry and it’s been going well.”

Smith added that each member of the line is extremely competitive. 

“Every game we go into as a line we want to be the best line on the ice,” Smith said. “And we take that personally if we’re not. So, every game we are super competitive, and we all want to go out there and dominate. These two guys feed off of me and I feed off of them, so we are always giving our best for the other guys.”

One of the things about the line that stands out is how well the players read off each other, and they don’t have any set roles. At any point, any of them can become the focal point of an attack. 

At the 2023 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, the line put on a clinic in efficiency. In seven games, Smith had 20 points, Perreault had 18 and Leonard had 17 as they were the top three scorers in the tournament. 

In the gold-medal game, Leonard scored in overtime to secure a 3-2 win against Sweden and earn the Americans their first gold medal at the event since 2017.

Now, heading into the quarterfinals tomorrow, the trio is focused on helping the Americans win gold at World Juniors. The United States last won gold in 2021, in the COVID bubble in Edmonton, and last won the event in front of spectators since 2017 in Montreal.

Winning gold as a trio could make for a perfect scene in the potential movie.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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