Ryan McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.76 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6’2.25, 206 pounds
2017-2018 Stats (Including Playoffs): 76 GP, 28 G, 47 A, 32 PIM, -6
NHL Central Scouting: 16th (North American Skaters)
Jeremy Davis (Canucks Army): 18th
Future Considerations: 23rd
ISS Hockey: 26th
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): 26th
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 30th
Craig Button (TSN) (March): 30th
HockeyProspect.com (March): (Not top-31)
Perhaps my perception is warped, but I find it somewhat peculiar that McLeod is sort of becoming a forgotten man in the 2018 NHL Draft. For better or worse, he is one of the more interesting players who will be selected.
Ryan McLeod is the younger brother of Michael, whom the New Jersey Devils drafted 12th overall in 2016. The two are eerily similar players, and they often played on the same line together in Mississauga this past season.
From the first look at him, McLeod’s tools will jump out at you. He has very good size for the OHL and, while there’s always room for growth and strength training, he’s pretty much at NHL size. He’s an extremely fluid skater with an effortless stride.
He also has tremendous vision and hands. When he has the puck, he is very hard to knock off of it. He darts in and out of spaces and will stickhandle around defenders. He also threads some impressive passes in tight spaces. He’s the type of player you want to put with other creative types because it will result in a number of long possessions in the offensive zone full of creative passing and cycling, or a killer combination play. Here are some examples (Ryan wears #91, not to be confused with his brother, who wears #9.)
McLeod has a really strong wrist shot. However, he does not use this shot enough. Among the 81 OHL forwards with at least 150 shots last season, McLeod ranked 16th in shooting percentage, which is a high conversion rate. However, his 2.41 shots per game is not a high number relative to his ability and usage. Unlike the majority of centers, who rely on scoring from above the crease, McLeod has the ability to beat goaltenders from distance. Because of his ability to hold onto the puck for long stretches, he doesn’t need to throw junk at the net and can instead seek out better opportunities. However, sometimes he needs to just let it rip. McLeod did significantly increase his shot volume from 2016-2017, though, so he has shown an awareness of the problem and a desire to improve.
Away from the puck, has some inconsistencies. He is actually a smart tactical defender. In Mississauga, he was frequently used on the penalty kill. He uses his quickness to close down lanes and pressure puck carriers. He also fits well into an aggressive forechecking structure not just because of his ability to press, but also because he’ll get back quickly to cover any leaks if the puck does get past his line of defense.
However, he does not use his size. At 6’2.25 and 206 pounds, he has a distinct physical advantage over many players. But scouts rightfully deem him a perimeter player.
At first, this clip serves as a great example of how McLeod can effortlessly move up the ice and win races to pucks. But halfway through he becomes passive.
McLeod did great work to get inside positioning on Shane Collins (#7), and has a slight size advantage as well. I’d like to see him use his body to box him out here. Instead, McLeod pulled up and tried to win it clean with his stick. The result actually wasn’t too terrible for McLeod on this occasion, but often it is. Here is a different example where he at least does engage with his bod but loses the leverage battle pretty decidedly.
I’m as big of an advocate for skill as anyone, and often roll my eyes at melodramatic advocates for “GRIT.” But McLeod definitely gets passive in puck battles and at the net front. That’s going to be a problem in pro hockey. Especially if he is to remain at center.
McLeod entered the season as a potential top-10 pick. Now, he looks destined for the end of the 1st round. The concerns about him as a perimeter player are one reason for the drop. The bigger reason is inconsistency. McLeod is an incredibly gifted player with an arsenal of tools, but not often enough do those inputs result in tangible impact during games. His 26 goals and 44 points in 68 games last season were perfectly good production, but with his kind of ability he should be producing far more. Furthermore, he’s an extremely hot-and-cold performer. Here’s a chart comparing him to other OHL centers who may be selected in the first round.
McLeod had 10 different games this past regular season in which he registered three-or-more points. That’s a spectacular feat! There are times when McLeod can be outright dominant on the ice in a way that not many of his peers can match. But he also had a number of pointless games. Not every game can be a great effort, and it’s possible to help one’s team without ending up on the scoresheet. For McLeod, there are too many games where he’s ineffectual. He also had a number of hot streaks followed by major droughts. Though not the massive red flag it is for some other prospects, I also have some modest concerns about how reliant he was on the power play to tally points.
McLeod leaves scouts with a lot of questions. First, how fixable are his problems? There’s no doubting the skill, but plenty of skilled players have failed to stick in the NHL due to an inability to translate that skill into consistent in-game contributions. Secondly, how much room for improvement is there? Born in September 1999 and having already completed three OHL seasons, McLeod is one of the oldest players in the draft. Does that mean he has less room for growth?
And finally, how much does that all actually matter? There is an extremely small handful of players who are immaculate in every aspect of the game; Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, and that might be it. With everyone else, you’re compromising. McLeod is far from perfect, but his skillset might be so inviting that you tolerate the negatives.
He has his warts, but in my opinion no center in this draft has more upside than McLeod. A patient and communicative coaching staff may be able to teach McLeod how to use his size better and be more consistent every shift, but the best hockey minds in the world will never be able to teach a 3rd-liner how to skate or make plays with the puck like McLeod can. Is he a safe bet to make the NHL? Far from it. But this far back in first round you’re dealing almost exclusively with players who have big question marks. You might as well swing for the fences. McLeod has the tools to become a first-line center if all the stars align, but I don’t think he is boom-or-bust, either. Should that fail, he has the tools to settle into a depth role as a consolation, as well.
What Others Have Said
Brock Otten, OHL Prospects:
“I’d love to see him be way more of a factor when the puck isn’t on his stick. Using that size consistently to be more of a factor on the forecheck and in his own zone. On the penalty kill, he can be effective, but 5 on 5, that hunger isn’t always there.”