With the preseason underway for the New Jersey Devils, another player to keep an eye is Michael McLeod. There seems to be an edge to McLeod’s game this preseason. Things are certainly heading in the right direction through the Prospects Challenge and the beginning of training camp. He also understands what he needs to do to be a part of the Devils this season. Having played in 21 games last season in the NHL, McLeod has an advantage knowing what to expect from the coaching staff.
Since being drafted 12th overall by the Devils in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, expectations were high. It was the second straight year the Devils took a center in the first round. The team was trying to create depth down the middle. In his two prior training camps with the Devils, he looked out of place. Even though his rookie camps were strong, he could not carry it over into training camp. McLeod did spend time with the big club last season, but for the most part, he played in Binghamton.
The hard work McLeod put in the off-season working on his speed and his shot is paying off. Even though the Devils lost to Montreal in Monday night’s preseason game, McLeod had a goal and an assist. This continues a trend of McLeod finding the back of the net. In two training camp scrimmages over the weekend, McLeod scored a goal and found a way to be an effective player on the ice.
Fighting For A Spot
The Devils have depth at the forward position. McLeod is one of several prospects making life difficult for the coaching staff. Having a strong start helps. Using his experience from last season with the Devils, McLeod showed he can get into better positions on the ice. What better example of that than the assist he picked up on Will Butcher’s goal against the Canadiens.
As the video shows, McLeod gets the puck from Damon Severson in his zone. McLeod uses his speed through the neutral zone as he controls the puck bringing three Canadiens defenders towards him. This allows a passing lane to open up for McLeod to send the puck over to Butcher for a Devils goal.
Even with his name appearing on the scoresheet, McLeod needs to continue his progress this preseason. He cannot get comfortable in his play. He must strive to get better. And even if he does not make the team to start the season, he could be on the shortlist to get called up if there is an injury.
Embed from Getty Images