Capitals top prospect Ryan Leonard returning to Boston College

Caps' prospect Ryan Leonard buries goal for Boston College (0:32)

Capitals' draft prospect Ryan Leonard breaks the 1-1 tie with a nice goal for Boston College. (0:32)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ryan Leonard is not joining the Washington Capitals for the playoffs after all and will return to Boston College for his sophomore season.

General manager Brian MacLellan confirmed that Wednesday, saying the organization's top prospect expressed a desire to play another season at the NCAA level before making the leap to the NHL.

"We support Ryan's decision to return to one of the best programs in the nation to continue his development," MacLellan said in a statement. "Ryan showed great leadership and made tremendous progress during his first year, which saw him score the most goals by a freshman in Boston College program history and the third-most goals in the NCAA.

"We will continue to monitor his development and progress next year and look forward to watching Ryan build upon his successful freshman season."

Speculation swirled on social media earlier in the day about Leonard perhaps changing his mind and signing with the Capitals after they finished off an improbable late-season run to make the playoffs with a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Leonard, 19, was the eighth pick in the draft last year and quickly looked like a big piece of the franchise's future. He had 60 points in 41 games during his only NCAA season at Boston College, helping the Eagles reach the Frozen Four before losing to Denver in the final.

The 6-foot, 192-pound winger could have become the latest young player to jump right in at hockey's highest level in the postseason, something done by Colorado's Cale Makar, New York's Chris Kreider and Washington's Tom Wilson, another first-round pick to start his professional career against the Rangers.

Leonard instead is going back to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, for another shot at BC, perhaps with linemates Will Smith (San Jose) and Gabe Perreault (Rangers), to chase a national championship.

Cutter Gauthier, named the top forward at the world junior championship for leading the U.S. to gold and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey, signed with Anaheim earlier this week and is expected to debut for the Ducks in their season finale Thursday at Vegas.