For the last three seasons, the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL have been a real contender in the OHL. This was due, in no small part, to the contributions of last season’s captain, Michael Mcleod. In back to back seasons in Mississauga, Mcleod averaged over a point per game while also being one of the top 2-way centers in the OHL.
In the 2016 NHL Draft the New Jersey Devils selected “Mikey” Mcleod 12th overall, and later selected fellow Mississauga standout Nathan Bastian. It seemed as though a course was set for these two close friends and fellow Steelheads to break into the NHL. Therefore, it seemed as though last season would be Mikey’s final one in a Trout jersey. He gave the Trout faithful a heck of a ride though, scoring 27 goals and 46 assists through 57 regular season games, then adding an exclamation point of 27 points and a +17 rating through 20 playoff games on their way to the final round loss to the Champion Erie Otters.
In the NHL, the New Jersey Devils struggled through 2016-17. Over the summer the draft lottery awarded them the first overall pick in the 2917 draft. They took Swiss phenom, Nico Hischier, a center from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. Further additions to the Devils’ roster created a logjam of forwards. Where six months before it seemed that Mcleod was a surefire lock to make the Devils opening night roster, instead he found himself locked in an intense competition. Appearing to struggle a bit, Mcleod’s aspirations were further hampered by an injury sustained against the New York Islanders. On September 25th, Mcleod went down with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury required surgery to repair, Mcleod was speculated to mix 4-6 weeks.
In those 4-6 weeks, The New Jersey Devils have gotten off to one of the hottest starts in franchise history and are among the top teams in the NHL. Young rookie forwards Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier have dazzled coaches, fans and scouts alike with their maturity and adaptation to the NHL game. AHL veteran Brian Gibbons has finally stuck in the NHL after a breakout camp, while other younger fringe players like Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen have asserted themselves in bottom line roles. The Devils find themselves with nowhere on their roster to place Mcleod.
Conventional logic says that McLeod would be sent to the AHL to join Nathan Bastian and other former OHL standouts like Blake Speers, Josh Jacobs, MacKenzie Blackwood and Colton White. However, Michael’s birthday is February 3rd, 1998. This makes him 19 years old, forcing him to fall under the NHL-CHL agreement where a player aged 18-19, not retained by their NHL club, is to be sent back to their CHL club to fulfill their contractual obligation.
And so, the Mississauga faithful will get to see Captain Michael Mcleod suit up in the Blue and White once again. This boost couldn’t come at a better time for the Steelheads who currently find themselves mired in 7th in the Eastern Conference. The return of their great Captain could be the spark that the trout need to turn their season around and make a run at an OHL Title.