Mike McLeod has been absolutely stellar in Juniors this season, leading his team to a deep playoff run. His success makes fans think he’d be able to jump right onto the New Jersey Devils. To do this, he cannot be a center.
The Mississauga Steelheads are currently fighting the Erie Otters for a chance to win the OHL Championship. One of the main reasons for the Steelheads winning ways, which saw them go from worth-to-first within the season, is captain Mike McLeod.
McLeod put up an astounding season in the OHL. He had 73 points in just 57 games. McLeod even has 25 points in this year’s playoffs. HIs ability to score at will, and when his team needs it most, makes watching him a real treat.
That treat makes New Jersey Devils salivate. He was taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft. The Devils could sorely use offense, even with an incoming first-overall pick on the way.
Everyone who talks about McLeod, says great things about him. The Steelheads head coach James Richmond told The Star he was one of the three fastest players in the OHL.
"“The one thing people might not notice is our speed . . . Michael (McLeod) might flat out be one of the three fastest guys in the league,” Richmond said."
He’s gotten better every season, and showed he can play well for long stretches. McLeod had just 29 points in his first season with the Steelheads two years ago, but exploded for 61 last year. He got drafted, became captain and jumped his points by 12 this season.
Despite all the positive, there is one major problem. McLeod plays center, a position the Devils have a ton of talent already.
The Devils already have Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Pavel Zacha locked in at center. The two projected number one overall picks Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier both play center at an elite level. 2015 first-round pick John Quenneville plays center. There is a plethora of talent at the center position when it comes to the Devils prospects. If McLeod stays at that position, there’s a line he’ss be waiting in.
Looking towards next season, Zajac, Zacha and Henrique are all locks to make the roster. Quenneville will likely be there, and whoever ends up being the top pick has a great to chance to make it, too. For McLeod to make an impact on the big club, he needs to learn to play the wing.
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Looking at the Devils now, Zajac has no chance of moving positions. Henrique could easily move to wing to make room for Patrick/Hischier or Zacha on the second line, but that could take time for him to adjust seeing as he’s been a center for the better part of five years now.
Changing positions could force McLeod back into Juniors. He’s clearly much better than most of his competition, but with the CHL-NHL agreement, he either has to play on the Devils pro club, or he needs to go back to the Steelheads. The AHL is not an option for him.
The Devils have an amazing talent in McLeod. He looks like a steal at the 12th overall pick. Mixed with the talent that is currently coming through the Devils system, this could be the start of a great era in Devils hockey, so one more year of Juniors won’t hurt.