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FEATURE: McLeod enters the mix

After being recalled and serving his seven-day quarantine, Ryan McLeod is ready to enter game action with the Edmonton Oilers

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Ryan McLeod was all smiles at Oilers practice on Sunday.

The 21-year-old's toothless grin beamed wide as he got up to speed with the big club after completing a long, seven-day quarantine following a recall from the American Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors. 

McLeod's summoning to the Orange & Blue came well-deserved after producing 14 goals and 14 assists for the Condors, who hold down second in the AHL's Pacific Division with a 19-11-0-1 record and .629 points percentage through 31 contests.

Video: PRACTICE | McLeod Skates 04.25.21

Now that the 2018 second-round draft pick has entered the mix in Oil Country, it's only a matter of time until he makes his NHL debut. Head Coach Dave Tippett did not confirm when McLeod would play his first game but spoke to the impact he could have as the regular season winds down and playoffs pick up.

"It's a young player that's coming in and he's had some really good success this year," Tippett said. 

"I just hope he keeps playing the way he was. If he does that, he can be an effective player. Every young player that comes into the League, there are some jitters. But you see a lot of young players that come into the League and they takeoff, too. We'll see how he reacts to it."

McLeod has been a force on both sides of the ice for Bakersfield this year, resting in a tie for fifth in AHL scoring with 28 points while leading the league with a plus-23 rating. The centre admitted that he had not considered being recalled to Edmonton this season, choosing to focus on improving individually.

"They told us there weren't going to be any call-ups if any," McLeod told the media following practice. 

"I was just going down there and having a good mindset to try and grow my game and create confidence. Luckily enough, I was able to get a call-up and now I'm really excited to get started."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 04.25.21

The Oilers stretch drive will see the squad complete the '20-21 schedule with 11 games over 20 days. Being air-dropped into action after a week off is a challenge in itself but McLeod also joins the team at a time when the intensity of games is rising with playoff implications lingering.

"Is it harder to come in at the end of the year at the stretch drive? Maybe. But the other thing about it is he's had a whole year of just proving himself and playing well done there," Tippett said. 

"He doesn't have to change a thing coming in. When a player jumps in at the start of the year, he's not sure what to expect. Mack (McLeod) knows exactly how to play and that will give him confidence."

Captain Connor McDavid compared McLeod's arrival to the entrance Kailer Yamamoto made last season. Yamamoto provided a bright offensive spark with 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games to help turn around the team's season.

Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 04.25.21

"He can almost be like Yamo was for us last year where he just brings a little bit of a jolt of energy into our lineup," McDavid said. "He can definitely bring some size, some speed and some skill. We're really hoping for him to play well and I think he can do it."

McLeod is expected to play centre when he makes his introduction and watched game tapes of top NHL middlemen such as Boston's Patrice Bergeron and St. Louis Blues pivot Ryan O'Reilly to prepare. He's also witnessed just how fiery recent Oilers games have been and is eager for the opportunity to take part in the battle.

"The last couple of games up here have been really physical and full of energy," McLeod said. "It's been fun to watch. Hopefully, I come in with energy, play my game and play hard. Hopefully, it will translate."

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