Having long been considered one of the better 2001-born prospects, Nathan Légaré has put himself in a position to hear his name called early on the second day of the draft this June. The power forward found his footing in his second QMJHL campaign and produced impressive results. However, his inability to play with quickness will have teams wondering if they’re selecting a high-end finisher or a bottom-six checker.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / January 11, 2001
- Birthplace: Montréal, QC, CAN
- Frame: 6-foot / 201 lbs
- Position: RW
- Handedness: Right
- Draft Year Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
2018-19 Stat Rundown
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Drafted sixth overall in the 2017 QMJHL draft, Légaré saw around 11 minutes per game as a rookie with Baie-Comeau and the results were muted. 10 goals and 29 points in 62 games. Additionally, he only managed 95 shots (1.53 per contest) which is surprising as his shot is his best attribute. He was unable to rise up the lineup on a mediocre team and was often guilty of trying to do too much on his own. The transition up also illustrated the need for improved acceleration. Not an uncommon scenario for 16-year-old rookies.
The natural maturation of the team’s top young players, along with the addition of 20-year-olds, Yaroslav Alexeyev and Samuel L’Italien, helped propel the Drakkar to the top of the Eastern division. Légaré played a starring role as a draft-eligible in 2018-19 and it began early on with him scoring seven goals and 14 points in his first seven contests.
There are few players in the 2019 crop that possess the strength and work ethic of Légaré. He uses this tenacity to cause havoc on the forecheck and force turnovers. The intensity and competitive fire are abundant with this prospect. Here’s a glimpse of his ability to force a turnover and find his way into a scoring area where he quickly finishes.
While he lacks two-step quickness and is rarely explosive, he moves around fine for a player of his size at the junior level. Once he gets up to speed, he is very difficult to handle. His ability to use his frame to protect the puck and cut into the high-danger area, or fight for position and allow his mates to distribute to him, make him one of the more intriguing power forwards in the class.
As we can see here, Légaré is not shy about putting his shoulder down, protecting the puck out wide, and forcing his way into the slot for a chance and subsequent rebound tally. It appears that the defender has good spacing and positioning but simply cannot handle the power of Légaré.
The clip below is an example of Légaré’s acceleration at it’s best. It’s also a nice look at his powerful stride once at top speed. Plays like this (despite the defender making a bad pinch) offer scouts a glimpse of what he could be with added, consistent quickness. He also demonstrates nice patience before distributing the puck. Finding a way to lengthen that stride would aid in his quest to improve his overall top-end speed. The power is there. The technique needs some refining.
Légaré’s ability to confidently and consistently use his north-south power game was a key difference for his rise up the lineup in Baie-Comeau and subsequent explosion in production. That rise coincided with a spot on one of the more lethal lines in the CHL. He was surrounded by Sharks’ prospect (and the second most productive QMJHL skater in 2018-19) Ivan Chekovich, as well as Lightning prospect, Maxime Fortier. The trio combined for 123 goals and 275 points last season – the most by any line in the Quebec league. Légaré added an additional four minutes per night on average – with a large chunk of that coming from the top power-play unit.
Lo and behold, the shot generation spiked to 3.99 per contest and he tallied 45 goals in 68 games. That mark was good for third in the Quebec League and trailed only Arthur Kaliyev’s 51 for first-time draft-eligible players in the CHL. Légaré’s 14 power play markers were tied for 3rd in the league and trailed Kaliyev’s 20 and Nolan Foote’s 16 for first-time draft-eligible CHL skaters.
It’s important to note that when a draft-eligible player sees deployment such as Légaré did last season, the counting stats will be inflated and need to be acknowledged. Conversely, it’s as important to note that becoming a core player on an elite CHL club as a 17-year-old is an accomplishment. Légaré’s rise was justified and his production was the result.
As mentioned, the power winger is a shooter, first and foremost. His release arguably stands within the top-five of this 2019 crop and he can beat net-minders in a myriad of ways. His most lethal option is the heavy and accurate wrist shot that he unleashes with ferocity. There are countless examples of it, but here are a few.
Additionally, the power winger was mostly employed on the left circle on the team’s top man-advantage unit and boasts a quality one-timer. He shifts his weight well as the pass comes into his wheelhouse and provides ample power and precision.
Here’s a look at him finding a way to get torque on the release despite the pass being out in front of him.
Finally, Légaré is not adverse at getting his hands dirty down low. Of his 45 regular season tallies, 25 came from the hash marks down. He uses expert positioning, balance and strength to gain and maintain his position and fight for rebounds and tips. Often, he’s the one forcing the turnover.
His quick and agile hands are noticeable in tight, but not terribly effective in traffic. Here is a look at him utilizing his puck skills on a breakaway.
Légaré doesn’t just use his strength to rip the biscuit. He’s also shown capable of being a devastating body checker as evidenced by this hit during the CIBC Canada-Russia Series.
With his size and production, you would be hard pressed to find many scouts who would rate him outside of the first round if it were not for his awkward skating stride. The first two steps leave a lot to be desired and create an image of a player who appears to be the opposite of dynamic. He often lumbers through the first few gears before pushing to a reasonable top speed. This top speed is fine for the junior ranks but will likely be an issue at the next level.
For some prospects – the majority of draft-eligible ones, you can point to their birth certificate and physical development and paint a picture of better things to come when they reach physical maturity. That is not the case with Légaré. He stands 6’ tall and clocks in at 200 lbs. He made mention of needing to cut down on the A&W in an interview a while back, but from all reports, his frame is well proportioned. This leads me to question whether he’ll be able to add additional acceleration and speed as he ages up. Perhaps he’s one of the players who will need to sacrifice some weight to obtain some better quickness – a rare issue for youngsters.
With the lack of separation speed, the right-winger is an easy mark in the defensive end. Opposing defenders are able to cut down on his ability to produce controlled zone exits by pinching down. There isn’t a fear of him exploding two steps into the middle and skating the puck out. His vision also indicates that they don’t fear him making a quick outlet. Compared to his teammates, Légaré was one of the least effective skaters coming out of his zone. He relies on his teammates to bring the puck out and get it to him while already in stride.
Finding more composure while transitioning the puck up ice will be a focal point as he enters his third QMJHL campaign in 2019-20.
As mentioned previously, playing up the line up on a strong team will inevitably result in a high production rate and that will influence his projection at the next level. With that noted, Légaré’s draft-eligible production in terms of comparable skaters is promising.
It’s important to note that the distance between bubbles isn’t necessarily indicative of the relativity of the two players. When sifting through the raw data, the most successful comparisons to Légaré are Antoine Vermette, Simon Gagne, and Jason Pominville. His XLS% or Expected Likelihood of Success sits at 38.4 percent, while the likelihood of him becoming an impact player (top six forward) is 19.7 percent. The expected 47.6 points per 82 games put him right in the midst of becoming a contributing member of an offensive scheme.
Looking at the statistical breakdown of Legare’s season further reinforces the conclusion that his production was aided by his teammates. Of Legare’s 45 goals, 18 were assisted on by Chekhovich, while Fortier chipped in on 15. Of Legare’s 43 assists, 20 came off Chekhovich’s tallies. Those also accounted for the lion’s share of his primary helpers. Remove Ivan Chekhovich from the equation and we’re looking at a much different statistical makeup.
Nathan Légaré isn’t an overly difficult player to assess. His skill set is not subtle and offers a clear picture as to the type of player he likely develops into. He provides a diligent work ethic with a strong frame. His best weapon is his shot, and his most dangerous area to live in is the home plate zone. The challenges facing him in the future are squarely centred around whether he will be able to unleash his shot when the defensive schemes tighten up and the space around him shrinks. We saw a microcosm of this during Baie-Comeau’s first-round upset at the hands of Moncton. They keyed in on Légaré and he became demonstrably less effective.
Team’s selecting in the mid-to-late region of the second round should feel comfortable taking a chance on Légaré as his traits are unique to the class and his pure upside is that of a contributing top six scorer. The more likely result sees him become an energy player who could help out on a second power-play unit due to his size, strength and ability to maneuver the puck around the net. However, at the end of the day, for him to become a successful NHL player, the quickness simply must improve.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and theqmjhl.ca.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Nathan Legare’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Managing Editor, Senior Scout and Canucks’ Writer at DobberProspects. Associate Editor at DobberHockey, Co-Host of Prospect Central on Sportsnet650, and contributor at NextGen Hockey.
Most importantly, I’m a husband, father, terrible (but dedicated) golfer, and curly-haired man of the people.