On Wednesday night, three Boston College men’s hockey commits were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft for the second time in four years. This time around, incoming freshman forwards Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and Gabe Perreault made history for the Eagles.
Smith became the highest drafted player in BC history when the San Jose Sharks selected him with the No. 4 overall pick, and minutes later, the Washington Capitals selected Leonard with the No. 8 overall pick. The New York Rangers took Perreault with the No. 23 overall pick to catapult BC into the front seat of selections taken from a single program in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
In fact, no other set of two players were selected in the draft from the same future program. BC head coach Greg Brown will inherit all three players to a roster that already features the No. 5 overall pick from the 2022 NHL Draft, Cutter Gauthier. Gauthier posted 15 goals and 35 total points in the 2022–23 season on the Heights.
The trio all played under U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) head coach Dan Muse in 2023. Smith, Leonard, and Perreault were all formerly coached by Brown at Team USA when he assisted BC before becoming a full-time assistant coach in Chestnut Hill and then a head coach after Jerry York’s retirement in 2022.
During York’s tenure, another BC trio was taken in the first round. In 2019, Matt Boldy went to the Minnesota Wild at pick No. 12, Spencer Knight went to the Florida Panthers at pick No. 13, and Alex Newhook went to the Colorado Avalanche at pick No. 16. BC and Minnesota are the only two schools to have three players selected in the first round of the same draft more than once.
Numerous outlets and publications projected the three of them to be chosen in the first round of the draft all together, and chosen early on for that matter. While Smith and Leonard were picked in the top 10, it was a bit of surprise that Perreault slid out of the top 20 and tumbled all the way to pick No. 23.
Nevertheless, the trio led Team USA to a gold medal in the 2023 IIHF World U18 Championship, frontlined by Smith. Smith, a right-handed stick out of Lexington, Mass. was named the MVP of the tournament, notching nine goals and 11 assists in seven games.
Smith’s 127 points during the 2022–23 season rank second all time in USNTDP history. Meanwhile, his 191 points over the course of two seasons rank below just one player in the history of the program, 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, the current assistant captain of the New Jersey Devils.
Leonard, an Amherst, Mass. native, also had a standout season and registered 51 goals during his 2022–23 campaign, good for ninth all time in USNTDP history. The righty contributed 77 total goals over the two seasons he spent with the program, which ranks seventh all time for Team USA.
Perreault recorded 132 points this season—53 goals and 79 assists—good for the most points in a single season in USNTDP history. Perreault, the southpaw of the trio and a Hinsdale, Ill. native, collected 114 career assists and 185 career points, which both rank fourth all time in Team USA history.
After Wednesday, the Eagles now rank third in NCAA history in first round draft picks with 25 and will enter the 2023–24 season with four first-round draft picks on their roster. On Thursday, three more selections were made out of the incoming freshman class too.
The Montreal Canadians drafted incoming goaltender Jacob Fowler with the No. 69 overall pick in the third round, and the New York Rangers took another Eagle, Drew Fortescue, later in the third round at pick No. 90. Finally, the Dallas Stars selected another incoming defensemen, Aram Minnetian, with the No. 125 overall pick in the fourth round.
The six draft picks out of BC were the most from any program in the entire 2023 draft, and are tied for the most in a single draft from BC since 1989 when seven Eagles were selected.