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Could McLeod make an early fantasy impact?

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

For the past few years there have been prospects selected early in the first round of the NHL Draft who made an immediate fantasy impact, including Nathan MacKinnon (2013), Aaron Ekblad (2014), Connor McDavid (2015) and Jack Eichel ('15). The players coming out of the 2016 draft who could fall into that category are center Auston Matthews (No. 1, Toronto Maple Leafs) and right wing Patrik Laine (No. 2, Winnipeg Jets).

It's easy to project Matthews and Laine making the opening night rosters of the Maple Leafs and Jets, but what's difficult to project is if any of the other players selected in the first round will impact their teams as early as next season. Of the 150 players taken in the first round of the past five drafts, 19 have played 30 or more games in the NHL the season after being selected. For those of you scoring at home, that rounds out to 13 percent, so the odds are already against us. But we've seen plenty of prospects emerge as fantasy contributors sooner than later.

Take Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin for example. Larkin played one more season at Michigan after being drafted in the first round in 2014. He then made the Red Wings this season, scoring 23 goals with 45 points in 80 games. Other first-round picks that needed a year of seasoning include Calder Trophy winners Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Tyler Myers of the Jets, as well as Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers and St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri.

Among the first-round picks with a shot at making an early fantasy impact is Devils' 12th overall selection Michael McLeod.

The Devils desperately needed to address their lack of offense. Though McLeod doesn't project as an elite goal scorer, he's no slouch either. Considered by many to be the best skater in the entire 2016 class, McLeod used his speed to blow past defenders for Mississauga of the OHL. He scored 21 goals and had 61 points in 57 games for the Steelheads this season, and had nine points in seven playoff games.

The Devils have five forwards under contract for next season. That number will obviously change in the coming days and weeks, but it also means there will be plenty of spots up for grabs in the next few years. New Jersey lacks depth at center and could consider moving top prospect Pavel Zacha to wing if he makes the team in 2016-17. McLeod's skating is so dynamic and is a dimension that could help the Devils take the next step in returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His skating ability also increases his chances of reaching the NHL in the near future.

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