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Mississauga's McLeod on Fast Track to NHL

by Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com / Colorado Avalanche
Mississauga center Michael McLeod has the type of speed scouts crave in a top prospect.

He might be the fastest skater in the Ontario Hockey League, which is saying a lot because there are eight OHL players among the top 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

McLeod (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) is No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final North American ranking.

Left wing Alexander Nylander, McLeod's linemate in Mississauga, said he considers him easy to play with because of how quick he gets through the middle of the ice. Nylander is No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

"He's got good skills and is super-fast, so pass to him and the puck is usually out of the zone," Nylander said. "He's got a good shot and has good vision, good playmaking ability."

McLeod, 18, finished first among 36 skaters in transition agility (12.88 seconds) during on-ice testing at the 2016 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Jan. 27. His high compete level and desire to become one of the fastest skaters in his draft class comes in part because of the battles he had with his younger brothers Matt, 19, and Ryan, 16.

"I think that's kind of what made me so competitive," Michael McLeod said. "No matter what we were doing, whether it was skating, playing hockey or video games, I always wanted to beat them. I think that made us all better players and gave each of us that competitive edge."

Matt plays at Canisius College in Buffalo. Ryan finished his first season at Mississauga as Michael's teammate, and had seven goals and 20 points in 62 games. He's eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.

"Ryan is more of a finesse guy," Michael McLeod said. "He's really skilled and good on his edges."

In 57 games this season, Michael McLeod had 21 goals, 40 assists, six power-play goals, four shorthanded goals, and won 58.0 percent of his faceoffs (745-of-1,284). He had three goals and six assists in seven OHL playoff games.

"He has great quickness and speed, is smart and skilled but also very reliable," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "A coach can put him out in any situation and feel comfortable. He's a guy who could create offense off the fly, because with the speed he has he's very hard to defend against, so he's able to make plays.

"I think he could show a little bit more of a power-forward game, and I think it's in him where he can just drive to the net and go right through guys."

It wasn't easy for McLeod as an OHL rookie in 2014-15, when he had 12 goals and 17 assists in 63 games.

"I was still trying to find my game, trying to get offense back last season," he said. "We weren't the most skilled team. But this year we are and I can kind of play my old [fast] game, use my skill and work hard. It's been working out."

McLeod said he considers himself a drive-to-the-net type of player, capable of going to the tough areas to try and make plays for his teammates. Prior to joining Mississauga he had 57 points in 33 games in 2013-14 with the Toronto Marlboros minor hockey program. He was selected by Mississauga No. 5 in the 2014 OHL draft.

McLeod wears jersey No. 9 in honor of Hockey Hall of Fame member, Gordie Howe, who was his mother's favorite player. But part of his development came from coaching by another Hall of Famer, Paul Coffey.

"When we were younger we don't realize how great a player he was and I was pretty close with him," McLeod said. "I don't look at him as a Hall of Famer, but a coach or friend. When you realize you're getting advice from a Hall of Fame player you have to take it all in."

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