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Nathan Légaré: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile || A big, lumbering scoring machine on the wing

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Nathan Legare was among the best goal-scorers in major junior this past season, but that ability comes with a major question mark in the form of his skating and lack of speed. Are his great hands enough to overcome that at the next level?

Baie-Comeau Drakkar v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Goal-scorers are something that every team in every hockey league in the world needs. The Devils, in particular, are in a perpetual search for goal-scorers because they rarely have much in the way of high-end finishers. They have often lacked for creators as well, but they seem to be on their way to solving that problem with the aid of a couple first overall picks the past few years. But the Nico Hischiers and, more than likely, Jack Hugeses of the world are going to need people to pass the puck to. Kyle Palmieri arguably represents the best supporting cast-type finisher (i.e. non-Taylor Hall/Ilya Kovalchuk tier) of the past decade for the Devils, but the problem is that the system currently features very little in the way of pure finishers behind him. To get a high-end scorer outside the top 10-20 picks of a draft though, you’ll often have to take a player with some inherent trade-offs. In that vein, Nathan Legare may represent an opportunity secure that type of supporting-cast scorer.

Who is Nathan Légaré?

Nathan Legare is a big right-winger out of the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Born in Montreal on January 11, 2001, Legare is middle-of-the-road in age among first-year draft-eligible players. He checks in a 6’-0”, putting him mid-range in height, but with a weight of 205, he has a fairly bruising frame and certainly plays “big.” Legare, like many players of French-Canadian origin, made his way through the junior ranks in Quebec, advancing through the Quebec bantam and midget leagues before arriving in the QMJHL in 2017-18.

Legare had a strong rookie season as a 16/17 year-old, being a significant contributor for Baie-Comeau with 10 goals and 19 assists in 62 games. This past season represented a major leap for the young forward, though, as he exploded with 45 goals and 42 assists in 68 games. His 87 points checked in at eighth overall in the QMJHL and second among draft-eligible U-18s. His 45 goals are particularly impressive, coming in second in the league overall and comfortably first among U-18s. He also had some moderate success at international tournaments, including four goals in seven games at the U-18 WJC (good for a tie for third on team Canada), though he also went without an assist. His overall stats from Elite Prospects are in the screencap below and his page can be found at this link.

Stats via EliteProspects

If his numbers didn’t tell you already, Legare’s primary attribute as an NHL prospect is an ability to score goals. His shot is almost always mentioned as great in scouting reports, and his ability to get in position to score and then finish, whether with a slap, snap-, or wrist shot, is seemingly matched by few in this draft class. He is regarded as a pretty good passer in his own right, but his interest is primarily in getting pucks to the net, and that seems to work pretty well for him. For a player with that type of ability to score, though, there will inevitably be significant holes in their game to likely be available in the second round of the draft like Legare might be, based on the rankings.

The real knock on Legare is his skating. His big frame allows him to outmuscle players and stake out good positions in tight to the net, but it also seems to serve as a drag on his mobility. Legare is not lacking for effort, though, and he is able to make up for his lack of speed at times with hustle and intensity. To the extent that other areas of his game suffer, it seems to be at least tangentially tied to his speed and quickness (or lack thereof). He can arrive a step late on defense or have to overcommit to try and keep up in both directions, making his play away from the puck only so-so. His awareness seems to be fine, generally, but the value in his game is obviously the scoring and, to a lesser extent, his size and intensity, which allow him to make up for some of the skating shortcomings.

Where is Légaré Ranked?

For the most part, the various scouting services and sites covering the draft put Nathan Legare somewhere in the mid-second round range. Given his size and the number of goals he scored this season that seems a little bit on the low end, but concerns about his skating seem to keep him out of the first round-level for most. The notable exceptions are The Athletic’s two prospect lists, which both rate him in the late-first round range, and then McKeen’s Hockey and Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst, who both push him back toward the late-third range. Given the general cross section of rankings, if the Devils don’t take him at 34, it seems like he might be off board by the time they’re back on the clock at 50, but with a lot of disparate rankings on a lot of players this year, its tough to say with much certainty.

What Others are Saying About Nathan Légaré

Legare was one of the QMJHL’s top goal-scorers this season so it stands to reason that he garnered plenty of attention from scouts and those covering the draft.

We’ll start with the profile of Legare from Ben Kerr at Last Word on Hockey. As ever, he breaks down Legare’s game by category ultimately concluding that he could be a strong middle-six scorer for an NHL team someday if he continues to develop. Some highlights from the profile, which is worth a read in full:

His top-end speed is merely average. While he has a good first few steps, his overall acceleration is also mediocre.

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Legare is strong on the puck. He uses a wide base to his stride, which gives him excellent balance. His stride is powerful and he is able to fight through checks, hooks, and holds.

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Legare is a natural sniper. He has an outstanding array of shots. His wrist shot is close to NHL ready. It is strong as well as accurate. It also features a very quick release. He also has a very good snapshot. Legare finds a way to get open inside the faceoff dots and converts teammate’s passes when they get him the puck.

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Legare is willing to use his size and physicality in his own end of the rink as well. However, he needs to be more disciplined. Legare has a tendency to abandon his position, chasing the puck and looking for a big hit.

So from that profile, Legare seems to fall into the general category of a power forward and has a great shot as one of the defining elements of his game. His skating seems to only be okay and his awareness off the puck could also be improved, but as a goal-scorer and a disruptive force in the offensive end, he seems to have the goods.

Next, we head to Future Considerations, where they had this to say about Legare back in November:

Légaré has an incredible competitiveness level and he brings energy to every aspect of his game. He has a great strength and solid edges with which he can throw a big hit, win most of his board battles or protect well his puck. He has some great finishing skills, and a very powerful shot — both slap and wrist. He has a great positioning offensively to get dangerous scoring chances, and backchecks with intensity and always wants to be involved defensively.

Intensity and a willingness to mix it up do not seem to be in short supply for Legare, and he is definitely willing to throw his weight around a bit. Going back to the profile from Ben Kerr, I can see how this intensity could make its way into a bit of overzealousness, pulling him out of position at times, but that’s likely something that can be improved with some coaching. His shot is once again praised, and it’s unsurprising that a guy who scored 45 goals in his draft season has a highly-regarded ability to finish.

Our friends over at Habs Eyes on the Prize put together a thorough look at Legare’s game a couple weeks ago, so you should head over there if you’re looking for a good in-depth breakdown of various aspects of his game. I’ll touch on some snippets here, but the piece there, done by David St-Louis, is well done so you should give it a look.

On his net-front presence:

He likes to hang around the net. He is hard to move from his position and can slip in between a fronting defenceman and the goalie to turn his body to the blue line. He then looks to bang in rebounds from shots fired from the point, and amassed a fair share of his goals this way.

St-Louis also notes that Legare has the size to keep that type of game effective at the next level.

On his shot:

He is precise with his slapshots, but he also scores with volume. As a rule, the right-winger rarely passes on an opportunity to get the puck on net. He actively looks to one-touch the puck as much as possible; which has the advantage of his shot flying to the net before the goalie is ready, but the drawback is some shots coming from less-dangerous locations or poor passes. That said, Légaré also tends to find ways to make the best shot possible out of those.

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But even if Légaré is at his best with one-touch releases — either snap- or slapshot — he also has a mean wrist-shot with added tricks to boost its effectiveness.

Again, Legare’s bread and butter is his shot. He shoots well and he shoots a lot, which understandably leads to lots of goals. His ability to get into good scoring positions combined with a very good shot and willingness to shoot the puck means he projects to be someone who can potentially do damage from the wing at the NHL level.

As with other profiles, though, St-Louis is forced to mention Legare’s skating, and he’s even a bit harder on it than others:

Légaré isn’t very quick or fast. He hunches over in his skating, his feet slam the ice, and his heavy frame has him drag at times on the ice. While he sometimes makes up for his lack of speed by hustling hard to catch up to the play, his lack of mobility hinders some aspects of his game.

St-Louis mentions that this skating deficiency cuts down on his ability to create his own shots as well as closing gaps at the defensive end of the ice. Again, it’s a really stong profile and includes some video breakdown, so you should go read it if Legare is a prospect who interests you at all.

A Little Video

To see some of his many goals, we can turn to this highlights package put together by channel Hockey Prospects Center from his season in Baie-Comeau, which is understandably extensive. His shot is definitely as good as advertised, and he is amazingly quick on the trigger. He also shows off some decent playmaking and puck-protection abilities in the video as well. He may be a bit lumbering at times, but the kid knows how to get pucks to the back of the net for sure.

An Opinion of Sorts

Once you get past the first round of a draft, and even the top half of the first round, you will always have to be making compromises and trade-offs to get higher-end skills from your picks. Whether it is size, speed, or other question marks, the guys outside the top of the draft will always have a level of uncertainty that comes with them. Nathan Legare is no exception to this trend, as he possesses a truly high-end ability to score but is hamstrung to an extent by his lack of speed on his skates.

I’m of the opinion that production matters a lot when evaluating prospects, though, and few players produced goals in major junior this season the way that Legare did. While his game has holes in it due to his skating, I think the great shot, coupled with what seem like very good instincts in the offensive end of the ice give him a good shot at producing at the next level. He seems unlikely to be a major play-driver due to the skating, but on the wing of a great center, Legare is the type of player who can wreak absolute havoc. His ceiling is that of a complimentary piece on a strong roster, but if he develops and gets put in the right position, the potential for him to do major damage seems to be there. I think for me he has to be in the mix for potential options at 34th overall and he could be a great pickup if he happens to fall to one of the Devils spots later in the second round.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Nathan Legare? Are you impressed with his goal scoring abilities and are they enough to overcome his skating issues for you? Would you like to see the Devils take him in the second round, or is he a player you’d prefer they stay away from in an NHL that is trending faster? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.