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2016 NHL Draft prospect profile: Michael McLeod is arguably the best skater available

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Michael McLeod is projected to go a little later than ninth overall, but his superior skating skills make him worth a healthy look.

Graig Abel/Getty Images

Like his teammate Alex Nylander, Michael McLeod is one of the hopefuls that should be gone before the second half of the first round this year. As one of the more improved prospects in the Ontario Hockey League, he really made a name for himself this year, forcing scouts around the NHL to take notice.

Since joining the OHL Ranks with the Mississauga Steelheads, he has developed very nicely. In his rookie year, he put up an unspectacular 12 goals and 29 total points in 63 games. One year later, he more than doubled that total in just 57 games, scoring 21 goals and 61 total points.

Birthplace: Mississauga, Ontario

Shoots: Right

Position: Centre

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 187lbs

Twenty-four of his 40 assists were primary, so it would be fair to say that he was not just a passenger out there, he drove the play. Obviously having Alex Nylander as a common linemate gave him a good supporting cast, but he really opened things up for his linemates thanks to his skating, which I'll get to shortly.

He's also a solid two-way player, relied upon in all situations by the Steelheads. He is a very solid penalty killer and was used rather liberally by his team there, with good reason. He even managed to chip in four shorthanded goals on the year, good for seventh in the entire OHL, and only one less than Leafs prospect Mitch Marner.

He plays a physical game, which is encouraging because I think he stands to get bigger. He's 6'2" and only 187, so when training for the pro level he'll definitely be looking to fill out that frame. That will make him more of a force at both ends of the ice.

Skating is easily his biggest asset. He has elite top-end speed, and acceleration that allows him to get there in a few short strides. As you'll see in the video below, he can get the puck in his zone or neutral territory before turning on the jets, gain the offensive zone, and then create all kinds of problems due to that speed. It is very impressive.

If there's a knock, it's that his puck handling skills at top speed could use some work. Sometimes he looks a little awkward trying to set up a wrist shot while flying. If he could fine tune that a little, he'd be a much more complete offensive threat.

The argument is there that he already has NHL speed. He isn't expected to make the jump right away, but one or two more seasons of him continuing to develop at the rate he has been, and he will get there eventually.

Scouting

Curtis Joe, EliteProspects

Michael McLeod is a highly skilled power center that relies on nobody but himself to get the job done. His size and skating make him difficult to contain, and his competitiveness gives him an edge against other teams' best. His deft puckhandling skills and control over his speed are the defining aspects of his offensive abilities. All-in-all, a top talent that is both dynamic and hard to play against.

Future Considerations

McLeod has an excellent skating stride which includes several different gears and the ability to instantly change speed to shoot through holes in the defense. He is defensibly responsible and plays the game from goal light to goal light. Has a very high compete level, plays physical and will do whatever is required to help his team. Creates plenty of chances off the rush using his speed and willingness to take the puck to the net. Strong in the faceoff circle and has some leadership qualities NHL teams will like.

ISS

McLeod was the Steelheads go to player in all situations this year. Was assistant captain of the young team and showed excellent understanding of the game. As the year progressed it became clear that McLeod had more to offer than his steady two-way play improving his shot, hands and vision offensively. Rarely makes mistakes in his game but works his tail off to make up for the rare bad decision he has. Proved to be one of the best players gaining the blue line with the puck and can beat teams off the rush with his speed on the cycle with his size and vision. Matched up against top players on other teams routinely and able to contribute while shutting them down. A player to watch if he can put it all together and add some bulk.

Rankings

Future Considerations: 11th

ISS: 13th

Central Scouting Service: 13th (North American skaters)

Hockey Prospect: 11th

DraftBuzz Hockey: 13th

ESPN: 20th

The Draft Analysis: 10th

Thoughts

McLeod could end up being a steal in this draft. The type of skating he possesses as an 18 year old is hard to find, and if he can refine other areas of his game, he could easily be a future top-six centre on most NHL teams. That said, more complete players could be around at nine, so it would be tough to justify spending that particular pick on him.

Like with Julien Gauthier, my advice to the Canadiens would probably be to trade down if they would like to have McLeod in their ranks. Unlike Gauthier, however, McLeod looks to likely be gone within the top 15, so they wouldn't be able to trade down as far to stock up on extra picks.

If this is a player they like, they might just have to consider using that ninth spot to get him. Some analysts have him going as high as 10th or 11th, which has a lot to do with just how good he was last year.  It might raise a few eyebrows for him to go ninth, but it wouldn't be completely off-the-board pick either.

I wouldn't be all that surprised if Trevor Timmins decided to pick him. The drop off for NHL-ready talent will happen early in this draft, so anyone you get outside of the top four or five will probably be a few years away from stepping up. A player like McLeod would be an intriguing asset to have developing for any organization, and I'm sure the Canadiens will have scouted him and his skating once or twice at least.

I have my eye on some other players for the ninth spot personally, and I bet the Canadiens do too. However, if those guys are already gone, they might want to take a close look at McLeod.