BOSTON — It’s incredibly hard to ignore the two massive additions the Boston College men’s hockey team made to its roster heading into the 2023-24 season.

Freshman forwards Will Smith and Ryan Leonard made quite the introduction for themselves when they were selected fourth and eighth overall, respectively, in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. With the San Jose Sharks nabbing Smith, he became the highest draft pick in the program’s illustrious history while Leonard didn’t have to wait much longer to get scooped up by the Washington Capitals.

The two standout prospects aren’t the only high draft picks of the Eagles. Cutter Gauthier was drafted fifth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022, giving BC three top 10 picks on its squad for the upcoming season.

It’s a star-studded trio that will spearhead the Eagles, and has everyone asking second-year BC head coach Greg Brown if he plans to have Smith, Leonard and Gauthier skate on the same line.

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“We’ve been experimenting with a few different combinations,” Brown said Tuesday at Hockey East media day. “Even my wife has asked me if those three are going to play together. I’m sure there will be time when they will play together, but we’re going to try a bunch of different (combinations). It’s nice to have a veteran on your line, too, to start the year off. We’ll play it by ear for now.”

The three could form the top line Hockey East has to offer, especially after Gauthier led the Eagles with 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points last season as freshman.

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Smith and Leonard certainly feel like they can bring a lot to BC given their status, but Brown hasn’t seen their NHL potential impact their current mindset.

“I’ve been very excited that they’re not coming in thinking they’re just going to go out there and skill their way around,” Brown said.

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But the two offer plenty of skill that’s difficult to replicate. Smith, a Lexington, Mass. native, showed it off at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 World Championship where he was named MVP. And Leonard, who hails from Amherst, Mass., notched 77 goals over his two seasons with Team USA, which is only two behind Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews in program history.

“For freshmen, they can play at pace already, especially their brains,” Brown said. “You can see them working. I understand a lot of times freshmen get there and everything happens quickly. It’s a big step up from junior hockey. But they’ve understood where pressure’s coming and where the next pass has to go even before they get the puck. To have that ability to kind of see around the corner is hopefully what’s going to start them off successfully and keep them going.”

It’s evident the immediate impact those around Hockey East believe Smith and Leonard will have on the Eagles. After BC finished eighth in league play a season ago, the Eagles are projected to come in second in the Hockey East preseason poll.

But Brown, who hopes to “tone down” the outside noise, is looking to temper expectations surrounding Smith and Leonard.

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“Over the years being here, every freshman adjusts at their own pace,” Brown said. “We’ve had some that have come in, even ones that you might not expect, have come in and adapted very quickly. And then other ones, who have a great track record but it takes them a little while to get adjusted to college hockey.

“As long as they come in and keep working hard like they’ve had in the first few practices, hopefully their adjustment will come quickly. But we don’t we set any lofty expectations for freshmen, it’s a big transition for them.”

Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images