NHL Draft: Amherst’s John Leonard traded to Nashville Predators on busy day for past and future UMass hockey players

  • Amherst native John Leonard was traded to the Nashville Predators on Friday. The UMass product played two years with the San Jose Sharks. AP FILE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2022 8:46:43 PM
Modified: 7/8/2022 8:46:38 PM

Amherst native John Leonard is on the move.

The San Jose Sharks traded the UMass product to the Nashville Predators during the NHL Draft on Friday along with a third-round pick in 2023 for Luke Kunin.

Leonard, 23, was drafted in the 2018 sixth round by San Jose and signed with the Sharks after his junior season in 2020. He made his NHL debut in January of 2021 and scored his first NHL goal Feb. 16, 2021.

In 58 games with the Sharks (44 of which came during the 2020-21 season), Leonard scored four goals and had 11 assists. He amassed 18 goals and 16 assists across 47 AHL games with the San Jose Barracuda.

Kunin scored 13 goals with nine assists while playing all 82 games for the Predators last season. He added an assist in the Predators first-round playoff series, a four-game sweep by the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche.

Leonard will join fellow Minutemen Marc Del Gaizo (drafted in 2019, joined team after 2021 national championship season) and Ryan Ufko (drafted last year), who will be a sophomore at UMass this season after an all-rookie and honorable mention all-conference freshman season.

They won’t be the only familiar faces in Nashville, however. Leonard’s older sister Alyssa Leonard is an Associate Athletic Director-Marketing at Vanderbilt. She also worked for the UMass athletic department when John was in Amherst.

“MY HEART IS ABSOLUTELY EXPLODING ,” she tweeted with copious heart eyes emojis. “This is an ABSOLUTE DREAM Someone pinch me. Welcome to Nashville, little brother.”

UMass commits fly off the board

Four UMass commits were picked on Day 2 of the NHL Draft on Friday, tying a program record for the seven-round draft era matched last year and in 2005.

Incoming UMass freshman Kenny Connors was the first Minuteman selected Friday when the Los Angeles Kings chose him with the sixth pick in the fourth round, No. 103 overall. That made it six years in a row a current or future UMass player has head his name called.

The 19-year-old forward scored 25 goals and had 31 assists for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL last season. He’ll attend the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp later this month.

Shortly after, the Predators selected fellow incoming freshman Cole O’Hara No. 114 overall. The 20-year-old finished ninth in the USHL amassing 73 points in 58 games for the Tri-City Storm. His 48 assists were seventh in the league.

Future Minuteman Cameron O’Neill went in the fifth round No. 143 overall to the Ottawa Senators. The 18-year-old expected to matriculate to UMass for the 2023-24 season. He scored 57 goals with 76 assists in 62 games for Mount St. Charles Academy in Rhode Island and saw four games of USHL action for the Tri-City Storm.

Ottawa double dipped when it picked incoming forward Tyson Dyck No. 206 overall in the second round. The incoming freshman, 18, scored 34 goals with 41 assists in 54 games for the Cranbrook Bucks in the British Columbia Hockey League last season.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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