By TheOilKnight 03/17
Ryan McLeod was drafted in the 2nd round in 2018 by the Edmonton Oilers. At the time, he was viewed as a 1st round talent who slipped to the 2nd round before being scooped up by Edmonton. The main reasons why, was he couldn’t shake the “perimeter player” tag many attached to him, and his inconsistent efforts were a cause for concern. While he didn’t necessarily quash those concerns of his game in his draft +1 year, he still showed enough to think he could have success as a pro. His speed is elite. His IQ is very high. He can really shoot the puck when he wants to, and his vision and passion ability are superb. McLeod became a leader for Mississauga in his draft year and helped steer Saginaw to a divisional title for the first time in 8 years. There is plenty to like about this prospect.
Throughout his OHL career, McLeod never really became a big point producer. The most points goals he had in a season was 26, and the most points had in a season was 70. Rather, he established himself as a reliable two way center who’s speed & versatility became real assets for him throughout his career in Mississauga and Saginaw. He played on the powerplay and penalty kill a lot. He took all the big faceoffs and defensive zone starts. He became the #1 center and leader of the talented Spirit squad. He basically morphed himself into an all round player capable of playing a variety of roles. That should bode well for his future as he turns pro.
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McLeod‘s speed is a real strength. He is a terrific skater who moves around the ice with ease. He can leave defenders in the dust with a slight juke move and his top end speed. His agility and edgework are also top notch. He has an explosive first couple steps. He also displays good puck control & stickhandling while flying around the rink. McLeod will immediately become the best skater in Bakersfield among the forwards when he gets there & that will translate well to the NHL. Elite skater.
McLeod also has a terrific shot and release. It can be quite deceptive too as he likes to fake like he is going to pass but then can rip high over the shoulder. The problem is, he doesn’t use it nearly enough or he quite often shoots from too far out. Since he’s always looking to pass, his shot almost becomes his last resort if a play isn’t there. He only scored 61 goals in his entire OHL career which isn’t enough for someone with that caliber of a shot and quick hands. He needs to be encouraged to use it more at the next level, otherwise he will be too predictable of a player.
McLeod has terrific vision and passing ability. He has a knack for finding that man cross ice or making a precise feed back door for a one-time shot. He also has the patience to let plays develop as he draws defenders in then before firing a quick pass. Sometimes, he can be guilty of over-passing when a shot is available but you gotta love how he sees passing lanes open up out there. He is more of a playmaker than a pure shooter so it only makes sense to have a guy like Maksimov on his line when he gets to Bakersfield. He is a great distributor of the puck.
McLeod is an excellent 200 ft player. He is aggressive on the forecheck, and hustles back to pick up his man in the d-zone. Quite often he is the defensively responsible one on his line. Typically, you will see him cover for a pinching defenceman on the ice. Creates a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone. Great defensive instincts. This will bode well for him as he turns pro.
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Here are some highlights from this season that showcase his strengths:
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Like any prospect, McLeod also has areas he can improve on as he turns pro and continues to work on his game.
Here’s the thing. While he’s usually in good position, McLeod can be guilty of floating at times and not going hard enough to the net. He is also guilty of fly-bys and a lack of overall compete along the boards. He’s not a physical player at all he is more of a stick-checker. That was one of the main reasons he dropped in the draft, and is still a part of his game. As he moves on to pro hockey, he’s going to have to be willing to battle harder, especially if he wants to establish himself as hard-working bottom 6 guy. Again, 61 goals total in 4 years of Junior likely means he’s not going to be a Top 6 player in the NHL. The ability is certainly there, but his NHL future like so many other prospects is going to come down to how bad he wants it. This is the key to me whether he becomes a solid pro or not.
It is somewhat surprising that a guy with his shot & release, dynamic speed and quick hands never scored more than 26 goals in a season in Junior. There is no doubt he has the tools to score more but for whatever reason it didn’t click. Now, part of it was he had a guy like Florida 1st rounder Owen Tippett playing with him both in Mississauga and Saginaw who he liked to defer to. But, another part of it is he just didn’t work hard enough around the net to create 2nd and 3rd chances. Too often it was a shot then a fly-by. In order to maximize his potential, McLeod needs to shoot more and from high quality scoring areas, not just rely on a bad angle shot from the half boards. That goes hand and hand with the compete level mentioned above. He has the ability to be a more well rounded scorer who can be a dual threat as a passer or shooter but he has to want it more. That’s why I’m a little hesitant to pigeon-hole him as only a bottom six guy at the NHL level. Everything he has shown in Junior indicates that’s who he will be as a pro but there is sneaky offensive upside with him if he can adjust to a more pro-style game offensively.
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There’s no doubt McLeod is a tremendous skater who is capable of keeping up in the NHL. He offers a wide range of skills that make him versatile and valuable in the Edmonton Oilers organization. The key for him will be to up his compete level and intensity; go harder to the dirty areas if need be. If he can do that, he could carve out a nice career for himself. If he continues to defer and be more of a perimeter player similar to a guy like Ryan Spooner was in Edmonton, he will struggle to stick in the NHL. His offensive ceiling is probably a 3rd line center or perhaps a 2nd line C/W in a pinch. But, his true value might very well be as an important role player capable of playing shut down minutes, killing penalties, taking key faceoffs, while chipping in a few big goals here and there. There’s an opening for that kind of player in Edmonton long-term so the opportunity is there for him if he wants it. There is a possibility of upside as a pro if the intensity increases, as the skillset is good all-round.
As far as NHL comps go, McLeod appears to be somewhere in between a Ryan Spooner (low end) and a Ryan Dzingel (high end). The difference between those two speedsters really is their compete levels & overall consistency. That will be McLeod‘s biggest challenge as a pro. He doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses other than the desire to do whatever it takes to succeed on the ice. If he can push himself to up his compete level on a consistent basis then the Oilers could really have a gem here. That’s why it is important I think for him to get at least a solid year in the AHL of mucking it up every night. It should make him a tougher player to play against and a more determined player, rather than a guy who just “skates for miles”. Regardless, he looks like the future #3C for this team almost like Todd Marchant back in the day. Someone who can be relied on heavily in every situation & provide some secondary scoring. The question of how much scoring he can provide is still to be determined.
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