For Game 1 against the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals forward Brett Leason was in Hershey with his girlfriend, watching the action unfold on TV. A little over a day later, his phone rang, and he got the call to fly out to Sunrise and join the big club.
With Tom Wilson day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the Capitals recalled the 6-foot-5 right wing from the Bears for Game 2. And with Wilson officially out and a 2-0 series lead on the line, Leason is getting the call to make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Thursday.
“It’s been crazy. I think this season I took some big strides,” Leason said with regard to how the 2021-22 campaign unfolded for him. “Obviously playing my first game scoring my first goal just being part of the team. I think if you look at my development from the start of the season to now, I’m happy with it and I think the Caps should be happy with it, too.”
In 36 games up at the NHL level this season, Leason dished three goals and three assists, along with 14 blocks, 16 hits and nine takeaways. He also filled in on the powerhouse fourth line. And after the Capitals got back to full strength, he reported back to Hershey, where he said he was able to dish six goals and seven assists in 31 games while trying to add more to his game on the forecheck.
READ MORE ON WHN: Tom Wilson Will Miss Game 2 For Capitals, Listed As Day-To-Day
The 23-year-old also worked to incorporate more physicality and speed into his game, and that’s something that will be vital against the high-octane Panthers, who also piled on the hits back on Tuesday.
“I think offensively, I got better down there. There’s some things I gotta work on, but definitely helped with my development,” Leason said of his time in Hershey.
Going into Game 1, Leason is trying not to overthink his role but knows that there will be a lot at stake. He is filling a major role with Wilson on the shelf, meaning the team will not only need Wilson’s physicality and grit, but also the ability and pressure he can bring on the forecheck.
“I’ll get comfortable and do my role, do what Lavy expects of me,” Leason said, adding, “We got to come, have a good start and just play our game. Play physical.
“The series, it looked fast out there. Obviously, they’re both fast teams. They like to include their D in the rush. Just got to limit their transition.”
In the end, Leason is excited to see what he can bring to the table in the postseason and is embracing the opportunity while looking to capitalize on it after earning the call over regular extras and former Bears teammates Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. He will start on the fourth line with Nic Dowd and Johan Larsson as Garnet Hathaway and T.J. Oshie shift up to account for Wilson’s absence.
“Very excited and very fortunate to get this chance,” Leason said. “I hope I can make the most of it.