After doing something he’s waited his whole life for, John Leonard has to wait some more.
After leading Division I in goals during the 2019-20 college hockey season, Leonard, an Amherst, Mass., native, signed with the San Jose Sharks, ending his UMass career as one of the best players in program history.
“It was a goal of mine to be ready at the end of this year,” said Leonard, who’ll forgo is final year of eligibility. “We had a great team that helped out a lot. It was a great year for everyone. I’m excited. ... I talked about it with my family and coaches and we thought it was best for me.”
Leonard is the third notable Hockey East player in the news this week. On Monday, Northeastern's Tyler Madden signed with Los Angeles; on Wednesday, Maine's Tim Doherty announced he will transfer to Penn State and play as a grad transfer next season.
In most years, Leonard, a sixth-round pick of the Sharks, would join San Jose for the remainder season. But the NHL, like all North American professional team sports, is currently suspended due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus. So Leonard will stay in Amherst doing what he can to stay in shape.
“Nobody is going to the gym or any training facility or skating a lot,” he said. “I’m working out at home, doing runs outside, a lot of bike rides. That kind of stuff. I’m trying to stay in shape but also trying to get a little rest on the body before the summer picks up. I’ll stay in shape as best as I can. Run, bike, shoot pucks and do all the stuff you can do at home.”
Leonard is the fourth UMass player to land in San Jose. Justin Braun and Matt Irwin are both former Sharks, while Mario Ferraro, who was Leonard’s roommate in 2018-19, was a regular on the blue line in Silicon Valley as a rookie this year.
“He’s an extremely close friend of mine. It’s going to be great to have him,” Leonard said. “He’s going to be able to give me some tips going into training camp and all that stuff.”
Leonard said he was proud of what UMass has become during his time there.
“We’re all proud of everything that’s been accomplished at that school. When we got here as a freshman class we wanted to help bring a lot of respect and bring the program back up from the bottom,” Leonard said. “It would have been nice to have another run at the playoffs this year, but overall I’m very happy with the success the program has had.”
Leonard is a Hobey Baker top-10 finalist.
“John Leonard grew tremendously as a hockey player this past season, becoming the top goal scorer in the country, and put himself in a position to sign with the San Jose Sharks,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said in a statement released by UMass. “John has been a critical piece in the development of our hockey program and our culture. His growth as a player mirrored the growth of our team and we are excited to watch him play in the NHL with three other UMass players who came to campus at the same time. Cale Makar, Mario Ferraro and Mitchell Chaffee were all part of our first recruiting class and, after three years, they are all signed to NHL contracts. John is an elite goal scorer and we are excited to cheer him on and watch him score goals at the next level."