Today, we look at Ryan McLeod here at AAtJ. This is a name that shouldn’t be too hard to recognize for Devils fans, as the team selected his older brother Michael in the first round two years ago. Would the Devils go back to the family well and take another McLeod in 2018? Should they? And how similar is Ryan to his older brother? Some answers and opinions on those questions follow below.
Who is Ryan McLeod?
As was already mentioned, Ryan McLeod is the younger brother and also junior teammate of the Devils’ 2016 12th-overall pick Michael McLeod. A strong player independent of his familial ties, Ryan McLeod is a center who has developed into a crucial piece for the Mississauga Steelheads over the past three seasons. Originally selected by the Flint Firebirds in the OHL entry draft, McLeod was traded to his brother’s team in Mississauga before ever setting foot on the ice in Flint. From there, his career has had a somewhat similar trajectory to that of his brother, with a big breakout playoff performance (in 2017) and just eclipsing a point-per-game in his draft season. Ryan has actually already spent three seasons in the OHL based on his September 1999 birthday, which just missed the cutoff for the 2017 NHL Draft.
Ryan McLeod’s measurables put him at 6’-2” and 190 pounds, according to Elite Prospects, so he is a healthy size for a forward entering the draft. McLeod combines that size with speed and playmaking ability to create the potential necessary for scouts to consider him a first-round talent. As a player the team now relies on he was made an alternate captain for the Steelheads this season. Production-wise, McLeod has put up respectable, if not world-beating, stats for a projected first-round prospect. He has significantly improved in each of his three OHL seasons. Putting up 20 points as a 16-year-old rookie, 42 in his second season, and now 70 in 68 games as an 18-year-old in his draft season. Stats, from Elite Prospects, are shown below.
Where is Ryan McLeod Ranked?
Ryan McLeod is decidedly a first-round prospect based on the rankings, but consensus seems to have him skewing a little more toward the late first round rather than the middle. McLeod generally seems to be regarded as a higher-floor prospect, but people seem less sure of what his ceiling might be, which drops him lower down some boards. A collection of rankings is below, with the Draft Analyst being from January and TSN from March.
What Others Say About Ryan McLeod
For an OHL prospect like Ryan McLeod, a great first stop to get some good insight is the aptly-named OHL Prospects blog run by Brock Otten. Here, in the OHL Prospects Midseason Poll from February (where McLeod was ranked #5), Otten was able to collect a number of opinions from OHL circles on McLeod. Some highlights from that commentary:
“McLeod is an effortless skater who has finally begun to shoot more this season and his game has taken a leap forward as a result. His athleticism should help the rest of his tools, predominantly his ability as a playmaker, transition to the NHL. He’s one of the safer bets up front as a future NHL player -- even if it’s lower in the lineup -- after Svechnikov.” - Anonymous
”I think McLeod is a bit of a tough one to evaluate. The size, speed, and hockey IQ combination is extremely alluring. Watching him work down low on the powerplay is a treat. Such a talented playmaker who has terrific anticipation and vision through traffic. Yet, there are times where I want to see more of him 5 on 5. I don’t think he’s necessarily a physical player by nature (certainly not as aggressive as his brother), but I’d love to see him using his size more to his advantage to dominate the middle of the ice and near the crease. That intensity level will need to increase before he becomes a pro hockey player.” - Brock Otten
”Has all the tools that his brother has and a little better finish...Still has stretches where he stays on the perimeter but he can fly and attack with speed...His gave is evolving as a late ‘99 but he still has work to do.” - Mark Seidel
So McLeod clearly has very good speed and playmaking ability and even the ability to finish at times. It seems he doesn’t quite have the same intensity as older brother Michael, but the skill sets appear to be comparable, with Ryan maybe having a better shot. Otten was significantly more critical in his personal Midseason OHL Top 50 back in December (McLeod was #7), though. An excerpt from that, during which McLeod is mired in a pretty substantial slump is here:
He shifts from wing to center, depending on the game. And because of that, consistency has been tough to achieve for him. As a player, what is he going to be at the next level? He has size and is a marvelous skater. But he doesn’t utilize his size as well as he should. That’s not to say that he’s a soft player. It’s that he’s not a physical player who looks to engage physically to create offense or turnovers. So does he project as a checking line player at the next level if the offense doesn’t develop? I would say no. Offensively, he has good vision as a playmaker and excels in a North/South role, but are the goal scoring instincts top notch? Sometimes there just seems to be something missing from his game.
Not necessarily a glowing endorsement, but it’s clear that McLeod has the tools to become a quality player, which likely leads to frustration during stretches where he isn’t looking the part.
Moving on from Otten’s blog, we head to Dobber Prospects, where Peter Harling had this assessment back in November. Some portions of that:
A natural center, McLeod is already strong on draws and distributes the puck efficiently to his team mates. His skating isn’t as fast as his brothers, but is still a strength to his game as he has good acceleration, strong edge work and agility and is very strong on his skates. McLeod is more of a playmaker as he has excellent vision, puck skills and is more adept at setting teammates up than finishing, but he does have a good, quick and accurate wrist shot. McLeod is already strong on draws and has good size, but could be a little more aggressive. He plays a responsible two-way game and has no glaring holes to his game.
So that puts a much more optimistic spin on McLeod’s game, considering him a well-rounded player and talented playmaker. Moving along to the blog OHL Writers, where Dominic Tiano wrote this profile, he talks more about the solid skating and playmaking from McLeod. Some bits of that profile:
McLeod has excellent vision with superb playmaking abilities and has always been known as a playmaker first. However, he does possess a very good shot and has taken noticeable steps to use it more often this season – not passing up shooting opportunities.
Offensively, McLeod is dangerous on the powerplay when he has room. He sees the ice so well and with excellent anticipation skills, sees plays develop and he’s excellent at setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. The evidence is in his 21 powerplay assists which leads the Steelheads and tied for sixth in the entire league.
Those same anticipation skills allow McLeod to play in any situation, including the penalty kill where his high hockey IQ combined with his skating and ability to close lanes show through. He often lines up against the other team’s top players as well.
Tiano, like Otten, also mentions that McLeod has some work to do to round out his game at 5-on-5, but the skills and ability, and to an extent the production, are there for him.
Finally, we go to Last Word on Sports Ben Kerr, who has a solid and detailed look a McLeod. Here was his assessment of how McLeod projects at the next level:
With continued development, McLeod could become a two-way middle-six centre in the NHL. The question here is the upside. It is doubtful that he has enough offensive tools to centre a top line. However, he could fit in nicely on a second line, providing secondary offence and matching the other teams top line. As a late birthdate player, expect him to spend one more year in junior and then move on to the NHL In terms of style, his game is reminiscent of Ryan Kesler, but without the great shot.
That seems like a good distillation of the profiles on McLeod. Certainly a quality prospect who seems to have a solid shot at contributing in the NHL, but there are questions about how significant that contribution will be.
A Little Video
Some really nice highlights packages are out there for McLeod, showcasing some of the playmaking ability and vision mentioned above as well as a pretty decent shot. First, from YouTube channel Hockey Prospects Center:
And another highlights montage from Seer Video:
An Opinion of Sorts
After reading about and watching what Ryan McLeod brings to the table, it’s clear that he has the tools to potentially make an impact on an NHL roster. He has speed, which is ever more important in today’s NHL (and for the Devils in particular), as well as high-quality vision and playmaking ability. His game is well rounded and he even has a pretty decent shot to go along with it. But many of the profiles seem reluctant to fully buy in on McLeod and that definitely gives me some pause.
This is a matter of personal preference, but prospects considered to have a high floor and a limited ceiling immediately raise red flags for me. When you are drafting players, particularly players in the first round, you are looking for someone who will move the needle substantially on an NHL roster. I’m not positive Ryan McLeod seems like that guy. His production is solid enough, but it’s also not jumping off the page for a guy who will be one of the oldest players at the draft in their first year of eligibility. Having a strong two-way game is never a bad thing, but in the draft, I think teams should be maximizing talent and selecting guys who have game-breaking skills at the next level and filling in some gaps if they need to. McLeod seems to do a lot of things good, but I don’t know how many of those things rise to the level of “great,” which is a concern.
While they are not exactly alike in terms of their strengths and the set of tools they bring, the similarities between Ryan and his brother are definitely hard to ignore. Ryan seems to lack a little bit of the intensity the Michael has, but apparently has a bit better finish, a problem that seems to persist for the older McLeod. Overall, I think McLeod is a fine prospect, but I’d be more likely to want the Devils to select him if they were further back in the first round. I think there will be better options for a system currently a bit short on talent if the Devils remain at 17th overall, and might want to go in a different direction.
What are your feelings on Ryan McLeod as a prospect? Do you like his skillset as a playmaker and speed/size combination? Do you think he should be someone the Devils consider at 17th overall? Would you consider taking him if the Devils end up trading back? Does the fact that his brother is in the organization already have any impact on your feelings about him as a prospect, either positive or negative? Sound off with your thoughts below.