Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Michael McLeod

Welcome to the newest edition of 2016 NHL draft-eligible prospects

Today we look at:

Michael McLeod
Height: 6’2"
Weight: 187 lbs
Position: C
Shoots: Right
Team (League): Mississauga Steelheads (Ontario Hockey League)
ISS rank: 7
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 13
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: 9

Current Statline for 2015-2016 Season:  38 GP, 16G 28A 44P 45PIM, +1, 1.16 Points/Game

The Mississauga Steeleheads are lucky to have some very high potential 2016 draft-eligible players on their squad. One of them is Michael McLeod, Mississauaga-born center drafted 5th overall in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection. McLeod is one of the first players you notice when watching Mississauag play, simply because of his fantastic skating. I think he's one of the best skaters in this draft year, and also one of the best skaters in the entire OHL. It's his skating and his ability to keep his feet moving makes him a very dangerous threat. His explosive skating is key and while he has great lateral movement, his most impressive ability for skating, in my opinion, is just how quickly he can change between the "gears" of his toolbox. McLeod plays an excellent 200-foot game, supported by his skating. Offensively, McLeod has elite potential. He has a great shot and a smooth release. I wouldn't call him a sniper, but I would say his shot is NHL-level. In order to improve his chances of being an effective NHL'er he needs to work on the placement of the shots and getting them away quicker.

His offensive creativity and strong vision and IQ within the offensive zone are extremely impressive. He positions himself well and is able to go to the dirty areas to be effective to keep the cycle going. His strong size and frame also help him along the boards, in the cycle, and to fight off checks. He still needs to add more muscle before he makes it to the NHL. I don't like the idea of "compete level" (it seems almost cliche to me), but I think it's important to talk about how McLeod just never quits playing and competing hard every shift. McLeod has responsibility for the Fish, not only wearing the "A", but playing Center on the top-line for the team.

There's a reason why some scouting agencies, people, and presumably teams, have him ranked so highly. He has a very safe projection for the future. There are many other prospects who I believe will have higher offensive ceilings, but McLeod, in my opinion, has the potential to be an elite second-line center for a competing team. A similarity to McLeod's game, in my opinion, would be Jared McCann, with the only real differences in play being McCann having a better defensive play, while McLeod is much faster. Another good comparison for McLeod would be a center version of Blake Wheeler: excellent speed and board play, high "compete level", excellent but not elite stickhandling and hands...albeit at a stylistically level and not quite the same skill level.

McLeod's combination of size, speed, IQ, and overall tools at center position, and relatively safe projection path will lead him to have a potential of being draft very highly. He could even go as high as 4th overall. Realistically I think he'll go in the 10th-13th overall range. From a Devils perspective, I think he's another player to definitely keep an eye out for as June approaches. I've mentioned before that our efforts are going to be for re-stocking the cupboard of forward prospects, and I think McLeod would help do just that. The trend was set for the Devils at the last draft (the first draft under the new regime of Ray Shero and crew) to select players that could have substituted as track runners (Zacha, Speers, White, and Seney are all incredible skaters), which leads me to think the Devils are heavily drafting McLeod. That being said, this will be the first draft under the new Director of Amateur Scouting for the Devils, Paul Castron, so it will be most interesting to see what direction the new department takes the future.
 I am very interested in following the rest of McLeod's season in Mississauga, and I hope he can continue to develop into the strong two-way, elite skating player he has the potential to be. I hope you enjoyed my write-up of Michael McLeod! If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see my write about, please let me know!

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