After months of speculation and hope, the New Jersey Devils have made their selection in the first round in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Devils selected Michael McLeod out of Mississauga with the twelfth overall pick. The Devils traded down one spot from eleventh to Ottawa and picked up an extra third round pick from this season: the 80th overall pick. Ottawa picked Logan Brown. The Devils went with a forward - McLeod
Michael McLeod's Stats at EliteProspects
Here's his profile at EP. Basic biographical information is as follows. McLeod was born on February 2, 1998. He stands at 6'2" and 185 pounds so he's certainly not small. He played center for Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League and he's got a right handed shot. That may mean he could move to right wing if center doesn't work out for him in the pros. His stats from EP are as follows:
My initial reaction is surprise. The Devils could have had Logan Brown. They had Jakob Chychrun fall to him, which would have been a nice fit as the Devils don't have much in the way of young or offensively-skilled defensemen in the system. They take someone that came across to me as a faster Travis Zajac or Ryan Kesler with a worse shot, as I noted in my profile on McLeod. It's not that he doesn't have skills of his own. He's a very good skater, he's very fast, he's good in both ends, and he's fired the puck a lot in the OHL last season. But with a potentially limited offensive upside, I'm left underwhelmed. I don't think it's a bad pick, just not the best Ray Shero & Co. could have made at this moment in time.
It helps that this selection yielded an extra pick in this year that the Devils didn't have; it's additional flexibility for Ray Shero to make moves and/or fill the system more this year. I like the trade on its own. Yet, I'm left feeling that I'm going to wish that the Devils should have just taken Brown at eleventh. That all said, I wasn't enthused about the Pavel Zacha pick last year and I certainly don't feel that way now. So plenty can change.
Let's Learn More About McLeod
While I profiled him earlier this month, here are some key opinions about the latest addition to the Devils organization. Apologies if I'm repeating some key points. I will, however, re-post bigwhite06's video. If you want to get excited or feel better about the pick, then this highlight video will help you:
Let's get into some profiles. Chris Dilks at SBN College Hockey has looked at McLeod and has a lot to like about the player. He praises his skating, his defensive play, and his possession game. The latter should be of particular interest as will help offensive plays keep going provided it translates to the next level. The only part of his game that Dilks didn't like was the same thing that may drive Devils fans to not be super-happy about the pick: his finishing. Dilks echoes the other profiles I cited in mine where McLeod was great at creating chances and taking shots off his chances, they often didn't go into the net. That would help explain why he was available at #12 as opposed to being any higher.
Eldon McDonald and Christopher Ralph put this profile at The Hockey Writers about McLeod. As with Dilks and most other profiles on McLeod online, they list his skating and his defensive game as notable positives. They also note that his passing is notable, which would be a big help for the Devils' system. The organization cannot have enough players who are good at passing the puck. As with other opinions, they state that his finishing is the biggest concern. Unlike others, they do posit that it could get better in time. So much so that it makes him, to use their term, a "wildcard." I would have to agree. If the finishing gets better - or his draft year was just unlucky with respect to shooting percentage - then, yeah, this is a solid pick. If not, then it's still kind of underwhelming to me.
Buckeye State Hockey has been posting up game reviews of select OHL games throughout the season. This one from October 26 by Jeremy Crowe really highlights McLeod. Based on the report, McLeod was near-perfect at carrying the puck into the offensive zone, he was perfect in his defensive zone exit attempts, and he pulled off some star-like moves against Saginaw. On November 30, Crowe had a similarly positive review of McLeod in a game against Erie where McLeod was just dominant at maintaining possession in going in and out of zones. Likewise in this review on January 5, Crowe noted how great McLeod was at moving the puck; his only criticism was that he was rushing too much to make plays. That could be a function of McLeod just being so fast that he may need to learn to take it back a bit. Granted, these are just a few games but they really point to how valuable McLeod was on his junior team. They allay my concerns about his offense, although the shooting is still a concern.
One last note, CBJProspects at Buckeye State Hockey had a roundtable interview with a few people ahead of the draft. For the question of who's the most underrated, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News chose the Devils' selection, McLeod:
Kennedy: I think Mississauga’s Mikey McLeod is really underrated right now. His speed can’t be taught and he played through some tough injuries at the end of the season that obscured his value.
Between this and re-reading some of the profiles and opinions that I cited in my own profile on McLeod, I feel a bit better about the selection. I don't doubt that McLeod can be a good professional hockey player and even a good player for the Devils. I still can't shake the "what if" for this selection. What if the Devils stayed at eleven at took Logan Brown? I would have been much more of a fan of that decision. Alas, it is what it is.
All the same, regardless of my initial thought and further thoughts on the pick, I welcome Michael McLeod to the New Jersey Devils organization. I wish him the best of luck in his development within the organization.
In the meantime, please have your say about the pick in the comments. Do you think it was a good pick or not and why? What do you expect this player will become for the Devils? Knowing the pick was McLeod, would you have wanted the Devils to trade down one spot and get an extra third from Ottawa? Of course, don't forget to vote in our quick poll on the selection. Thank you for reading.