WASHINGTON - The NHL is a place where dreams come true. And that couldn't be more accurate than for New Jersey Devils 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Michael McLeod.
Friday night in Washington, the Devils center - currently in his first full year of professional hockey - will make his NHL debut against the Capitals. McLeod has played 21 games with the Devils AHL affiliate in Binghamton where he has three goals and seven assists. McLeod described himself as "shocked" and "excited" when he was pulled into Binghamton head coach Mark Dennehy's office Thursday night where he was told he was being called up to the NHL.
After the shock had worn off, McLeod had to then digest the moment he found out he would be on the ice 24 hours later in Washington.
"I was really excited," McLeod said of finding out he was in the lineup. "I saw it this morning. I texted my parents and they're already on their way. I'm really excited."
The night will be extra special to have his family in the building.
"It's amazing," McLeod said. "[My parents] have done everything for me to get to this point. So, it's nice to have them there for the first one."
McLeod played six games with Binghamton during the 2017-18 season after his Junior season with Mississauga concluded.
"With more pro [experience] my details [in my game] have sorted out a bit," McLeod said. "I'm just more confident out there. The physical aspect I've now brought to my game, I've shown I can fit in to the pro game."
Devils management and coaching staff have had their eye on McLeod while he has adapted to the professional game in Binghamton and felt this was the right time to bring him to the big club.
"[McLeod's] a fast, tenacious player and adds size to our lineup," Devils head coach John Hynes said. "He's very competitive. That's something we've talked about wanting more from our forward group, is guys that are harder to play against. He adds kind of both, the speed element and some more size. Hopefully he comes in and takes someone's job."
While McLeod draws in, forward Stefan Noesen is out of the lineup up front. While Marcus Johansson, who missed the Devils last game against the Panthers with a lower body injury, will be back with his teammates against the Capitals. On defense, Egor Yakovlev comes out with Mirco Mueller returning to the lineup.
Keith Kinkaid will start in net to mark his 19th start this season. The last time these two teams met was the Prudential Center season opener, where Kinkaid shut the door on the Capitals in a 6-0 victory.