Ryan McLeod (photo courtesy of OHL Images/Aaron Bell)
The MVP of the OHL Cup had been drafted by the Flint Firebirds, but was not going to report. So the relocated franchise traded his rights to McLeod's hometown Steelheads for a bevy of picks.
He's the youngest of three hockey brothers, but that doesn't diminish the expectations surrounding center Ryan McLeod, a potent offensive force whose OHL rights were just traded to his hometown Mississauga Steelheads.
McLeod was originally selected third overall by the Flint Firebirds – the franchise formerly known as the Plymouth Whalers – but had not reported to camp and was not expected to, since there was also a lot of NCAA interest in the youngster. But the Steelheads had a built-in advantage; Ryan's brother, Mikey McLeod, already plays for the team (eldest brother Matthew is going NCAA at Canisius College in Buffalo) and now the two will play together.
Flint swapped McLeod for six picks – three second-rounders and three third-rounders from Mississauga – and will also receive two compensatory picks in the 2016 OHL draft because McLeod was a "defected" top-five selection. One pick will be fifth overall and the other will be tacked on to the end of the second round.
How good is McLeod? He's just turning 16, but coming off a great season with the Toronto Marlboros, the powerhouse squad that won the OHL Cup in a 3-2 overtime thriller over Don Mills. McLeod was the MVP of the tournament with seven points in seven games, using his wicked wrister and playmaking acumen to do damage. While we're very far away, he'll be one to watch for the 2018 NHL draft.
And here's the thing: Even though McLeod was selected third overall, he easily could have gone first. There was a 'Big Four' in the OHL draft this year and they could have gone in any order. As it was, Israeli product Daniel Levin went first to Sudbury, Gabe Vilardi went second to Windsor and Owen Tippett went fourth to Mississauga, where he will now be joined by McLeod.
The Steelheads are getting real interesting real fast. Mikey McLeod just helped Canada win gold at the Ivan Hlinka and has many dynamic traits, much like little bro Ryan. Defenseman Sean Day already has a magnifying glass on him, while fellow blueliner Nic Hague starts off his first OHL campaign this fall. Hague is already 6-foot-6. I've also been told that dynamic Swedish winger Alexander Nylander will be joining the team. His brother, Maple Leafs pick William Nylander, will be playing in nearby Toronto for the AHL's Marlies.
Day, Nylander and Mikey McLeod are all up for the 2016 NHL draft. Add in undrafted Swede Daniel Muzito-Bagenda – a big-bodied power forward who can really grind – and there will be many reasons to get out to the Hershey Centre this season.
On the Flint side, it was important to get a good haul for Ryan McLeod. The Firebirds are starting anew in the Michigan town and while I'm sure fans will accept some growing pains in the first season or two, nothing fills an arena like winning. GM Terry Christensen is new to the OHL, (though he does have extensive experience elsewhere) but he'll have to make the most of his selections – whether he keeps most of them or packages others for established players.
Right now, the erstwhile Whalers are flush with veterans such as goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina) and defensemen Josh Wesley (Carolina) and Alex Peters (Dallas). Youngsters such as William Bitten and Zach Grzelewski hold a lot of promise up front, so Christensen needs to keep the ball rolling. McLeod would have been great, but it was not in the cards. So now the GM must look to cash in at the 2016 draft.