Nathan Legare turned pro, but experienced a significant learning curve last year in Wilkes. But as still such a young player, the interesting aspect will be seeing what he learned and can improve on moving forward.
Related: 2022 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Nolan Collins
#24: Colin Swoyer
#23: Jonathan Gruden
#22: Ty Glover
#21: Kirill Tankov
#20: Judd Caulfield
#19 Corey Andonovski
#18: Jordan Frasca
#17: Isaac Belliveau
#16: Taylor Gauthier
#15: Alex Nylander
#14: Nathan Legare - RW
Age: 21 (January 11, 2001)
Height/Weight: 6’0”/ 208 lbs.
2021 T25U25 Ranking: #7
Acquired Via: Drafted, third round 2019
Among the leading goal scorers in the QMJHL in 2018-19, Nathan Legare looked like a peaking and impressive prospect for his draft year. Since then, the outlook from Dobber Hockey isn’t a pretty picture over the last few years with his trending future based off age and point production.
When the Penguins drafted Legare in the third round, it was seen as a coup, a potential steal to grab a player that was mastering and lighting up the junior level better than most of his peers. Since then, it’s been a struggle and bit of a reality check for Legare — who ended up as a healthy scratch for more Wilkes-Barre playoff games than he played last spring.
2021-22 was a wake-up call in Legare’s first year pro. After appearing in some NHL training camp games, he was sent to the AHL. From there, his year never got in gear and he was up and down, in and out of the lineup. Known for his big shot and offensive ability, Legare only was able to produce seven goals last season in 57 games.
As Seth Rorabaugh from the Tribune Review recapped his season:
He’s not the first player who ripped things up at the junior level and then had trouble adjusting to the professional game. Physically, he could make up for mistakes against teenagers in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But against adults in the AHL, he can’t get away with cutting corners.
Legare needs to figure out the consistency and details — particularly on defense — that are required of being a professional on a day-to-day basis. The base skills required to become an impactful NHLer are there. He has scoring touch and isn’t afraid to mix it up physically. And management appears to remain upbeat about his potential.
The good news towards the end is that for as difficult and unproductive of a debut as it was, there still is some hope for a brighter future. Legare played last season mostly at 20-years old, one of the youngest players in what is a very good American Hockey League level of play. Legare was the second youngest skater in Wilkes-Barre, only a month older than his fellow 2019-draftee Sam Poulin (who himself had to deal with some growing pains and the shock up the large upgrade in competition).
Having gone through the rigors and rhythm of a pro season, year two is always a big one for prospects. Especially with a big batch of young forwards entering their rookie year in Wilkes this season (Corey Andonovski, Ty Glover, Jordan Frasca, Lukas Svejkovsky, Raivis Ansons) and some others moving on (Jordy Bellerive, Anthony Angello, Felix Robert, Michael Chaput, Kasper Bjorkqvist), the natural large changes of an AHL team should benefit Legare to have an opportunity to be a bigger part of the club.
Few if any have the tools of Legare’s big shot and his finishing ability, but now his challenge will be to continue to make progress all-around. Become better away from the puck to be trusted with more shifts. Make himself available for outlet passes and coming up the ice to be a better neutral zone player supporting the rush. Those are little areas that in juniors aren’t so pressing, but now that the competition level has increased are mandatory for players to contribute, no matter how good they are with the puck on their stick.
Legare is signed for two more seasons on his entry level deal, and now is in an organization where the general manager was not the one who drafted him. He’s young enough to still hope for him to build on the promise of his potential, and 2022-23 isn’t truly a “make or break” season, but it will go a long way towards determining just how realistic an NHL future could become.