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2018 NHL Entry Draft Prospect Profile: Ryan McLeod

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An impressive set of skills combined with so-so scoring output makes the intriguing center a draft wild card.

Erie Otters v Mississauga Steelheads

Name: Ryan McLeod

Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Stats: 68 GP, 26 goals, 44 assists, 70 points, 26 PIMs, -2 plus-minus rating

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 16th (North American skaters)

NHL Comparable Player: Andreas Athanasiou

On paper, Mississauga Steelheads center Ryan McLeod seems like he would be one of the higher-tier prospects heading into the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

The skill set that McLeod brings to the table is certainly impressive. He possesses that desirable combination of size (at about 6’2” and 200 pounds) and skating ability that NHL teams covet. His skating stride is long and fluid, which allows him to conduct end-to-end rushes while skirting around defenders along the way. His lower-body strength is good enough to keep him upright, both when he fights off contact at high speeds and when trading paint with defenders in tight spaces.

He’s no slouch with the puck, either. The younger brother of New Jersey Devils first round pick Michael McLeod owns a snappy wrist shot that he can deposit top corner or through holes that he sees in a goalie’s form. While he’s not overly creative, he spots gaps in coverage and can thread smooth, accurate passes to open teammates. Of his 44 assists this season, 21 came on the man advantage — the most on his team.

All of this sounds great, so why is McLeod not generating as much buzz as other draft-eligible prospects?

The reason essentially boils down to McLeod not doing enough with those aforementioned tools, as well as his lack of frequency for doing many of the necessary little things in between.

McLeod can be a frustrating player to watch when you know what he is capable of because there are simply too many times where he hangs around on the perimeter of plays or goes invisible altogether. In other words, there is an insufficient amount of urgency to his game at the moment. He loses board battles that he should win and doesn’t drive hard to the net often enough, despite having the size and skating combination that would make him hard to slow down and contain. He also doesn’t move his feet very quickly in tight spaces to make hard starts and stops that could shake defenders.

These problems reflect themselves on the score sheet. A 1999 birthday who only missed the 2017 draft by a week, McLeod only produced 42 points in 68 games last season (though he did chip in 20 points in a 20-game playoff run for the Steelheads at the end). And while his 70 points in 68 games this year are very good, that’s a low total for a third-year OHL forward being considered as a first round pick.

It should be noted, however, that Mississauga was a team that often looked discombobulated and never seemed to find stable ground all season long, so perhaps his production was hindered a bit by his environment.

Nevertheless, with the tools that he has, McLeod is undoubtedly going to draw a lot of close inspection from NHL scouting staffs in the coming month and a half. Sometimes you watch McLeod play and see fleeting flashes of high-end performance that make you think he could be a first-line center in the NHL one day, so many teams are going to be diligent in trying to determine whether or not they can unlock his full potential with enough development time.

The Dallas Stars could certainly be one of those teams. While the 13th selection might seem a little high to draft McLeod, he definitely fits the type of player that their scouting staff loves, and also helps supply the amount of centers in the prospect pipeline.

McLeod would be a high-risk pick for Dallas at 13, but it’s easy to get excited about what the reward would be if everything worked out perfectly.