Large, successful hockey families are a tough thing to find these days. Having one kid make the NHL is hard enough, but two, three, maybe even four? The Staals, the Sutters, the Howes, and most recently, the Stromes, are all famous for the amount of high-profile hockey players the respective families have churned out.
Now, it’s time to meet the McLeods.
For the past few seasons, Matt McLeod was known for being one of the fastest skaters in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and will join NCAA school Canisius College after completing his tenure with the Oakville Blades last season. His other brother, Ryan, who was the OHL Cup MVP after an incredible season-long performance with the Toronto Marlboros, landed with the Flint Firebirds at the OHL Draft back in April.
And then there was Michael. Like both his older and younger brother, Michael was also an OHL selection, going fifth overall to the Mississauga Steelheads at the 2014 OHL Draft. McLeod had a tremendous Minor Midget season with the Toronto Marlboros, finishing 3rd in GTHL scoring with 21 goals and 36 assists in 33 games. His strong effort wasn’t over once the regular season ended, however, as McLeod also went on to the Most Valuable Player honour at the OHL Cup that season, scoring seven goals and adding four assists as his famed club won the prestigious season-ending tournament.
After four points in five games at the OHL Gold Cup after getting drafted for Team GTHL Blue, it was clear that McLeod was ready to take on the best the Ontario Hockey League had to offer. On June 10th, the Mississauga, Ontario native would commit to the Steelheads, earning a role as one of the centreman on a team that really lacked a ton of skill heading into the season.
McLeod’s rookie season in 2014-2015 was definetly a year of learning. With the Steelheads carrying Everett Clark, Bryson Cianfrone, Nathan Bastian, Jason Smith, Adam Donnelly and Jesse Barwell at the start of the season, McLeod would find him shifting between the middle and the wing early on. Limited ice time early on wasn’t very beneficial for McLeod, who struggled to really create much of anything in the first 20 games or so.
Eventually, Barwell’s trade to Saginaw really helped solidify his role with Mississauga for the rest of the year. For a majority of the second half of the OHL campaign, McLeod would find himself playing on both the second and third line with the likes of Bastian and Josh Burnside. Once the season came to a close, McLeod managed to record 12 goals and 29 points, good enough for eighth in team scoring.
McLeod’s skating is something that stands out every single time his blades touch the ice surface. While not much of a physical force, McLeod uses his 6’2 frame to poke away the puck from defenders before sheltering the disk away from the opposition in the offensive zone. His passes are delicate, yet effective, making it tough for his teammates to make mistakes and instead rush in for a scoring chance. When you give him the puck, McLeod can take a mind-blowing wrist shot that somehow fights its way past any goaltender. Without the puck, however, he could use a bit of work battling in the defensive zone, changing to a more aggressive style of play that could affect him negatively in front of his own net.
The OHL campaign hasn’t even begun just yet and McLeod has already taken the draft class by storm. The fourth top scorer at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for Canada, McLeod finished with an impressive four points in five games to help his country lead their eighth straight gold medal at the U18 event. Every time he touched the puck, fans were treated to some of the most exceptional plays seen throughout the tournament.
Hopefully, his strong summer showing will help McLeod transition into a big-time OHL forward, as many are projecting McLeod to be one of the top players on the Steelheads this season. If so, look for the young speedster to find himself knocking around the top 15 in NHL Draft rankings and finally reach the potential people were hoping for.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter @StevenEllisNHL.
Photo from Aaron Bell/OHL Images.