San Jose Sharks prospect John Leonard comes from a basketball family.
His father, also John Leonard, was drafted in the 10th round by the New York Knicks in 1982, playing briefly for Phil Jackson in the Continental Basketball Association. This was prelude to a college coaching career that spanned three decades, highlighted by stints as associate coach at top-five program Villanova from 1992-96 and assistant coach at UMass-Amherst from 2001-05.
For the younger Leonard, however, basketball isn’t even his number-two sport.
“I consider lacrosse my second sport,” Leonard laughed, when asked in a conference call with San Jose media yesterday. “But I definitely had to play a lot of basketball in my spare time.”
The path to the Shark Tank began at Mullins Center, where the senior Leonard coached the Minutemen and the younger Leonard learned to skate as a four-year-old.
He recalled: “My dad was a basketball coach at the school when I was kid, so I was always around the rink, watching basketball games, hockey games.”
Neat note on newly-signed #SJSharks prospect John Leonard: His dad, also John Leonard, was top college basketball coach.— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 3, 2020
The senior Leonard was drafted by Knicks in '82, played for Phil Jackson in CBA, associate coach at Villanova when Kerry Kittles & Alvin Williams played there pic.twitter.com/GaQJlD1vM3
When it came time for 2015 ESPN Boston’s Mr. Hockey to choose his college, the choice was clear for the Amherst native.
“The biggest thing was being able to play in front of friends and family every night,” Leonard said. “So I always had a drive to go there.”
The 2018 San Jose sixth-round pick led not just UMass-Amherst, but the NCAA with 27 goals in his junior year, on his way to a top-10 finish in Hobey Baker voting.
“It was a great time for me to try to make the jump and start my pro career,” Leonard said.
Doug Wilson Jr., Sharks director of scouting, explained in March: “His body has completely changed. You’ve seen Mario [Ferraro’s] body, John looks very similar to that. When we drafted him, he was much skinnier. He was just not pro-ready, not a pro body.”
Speaking to that, in a conference call yesterday, Doug Wilson didn’t dismiss the possibility that Leonard would play NHL games this year, if and when the regular season resumes.
Whatever happens, the Sharks are certainly high on the 22-year-old sniper.
Wilson Jr. offered: “He’s got top-six forward upside.”