The McLeod family knows where to turn for advice on all things hockey.
Michael and Ryan McLeod, members of the Mississauga Steelheads, grew up with the Strome brothers, Ryan, Dylan and Matt. They watched the latter two make their way to the NHL, and were provided with invaluable advice, plus a first-hand look as they attempt to make the same NHL journey themselves.
“I am pretty close with Dylan,” said Michael McLeod after practice Thursday at the Hershey Centre. “Last year I was texting him ‘What’s this like?’ or asking how to do something.”
McLeod, 17, is draft eligible this year with whispers that he could go in the top 15, something that Dylan is experienced with, having gone third overall to the Arizona Coyotes last June.
“I met up with him the other day after he got sent home from Arizona and he was telling me about the whole experience and it all sounds like fun,” said McLeod.
McLeod, who is 19 months older than brother Ryan, is currently in his second season with the Steelheads and is looking to continue the success he found after a slow start in his first year, finishing with 12 goals and 17 assists.
“By the end of last year, I was getting in a good groove,” said Michael McLeod. “I have so much more confidence this year… it’s been a lot easier.”
Ryan McLeod, 16, came over at the beginning of the year in what was called a blockbuster trade with the Flint Firebirds, who were given eight picks in return.
Felt like it was just a matter of time until the Steelheads got Ryan McLeod from Flint, where he wouldn’t sign, to play in Missy w/brother.
— Stephen Sweet (@stephen_sweet) September 2, 2015
The third overall pick in the Ontario Hockey League’s priority draft and had 30 goals and 81 points in 74 games with the Toronto Marlboros last season in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. He led the team to their second straight OHL Cup and was also named tournament MVP.
“It was pretty weird when I saw the number of picks,” said McLeod in the Hershey Centre’s viewing area after practice. “I feel like I have to live up to the hype.”
As for the transition from the GTHL to the CHL, where he is now one of the youngest players in the league, his older brother and teammates have taken them under their wing.
THE STEELHEADS GOT RYAN MCLEOD AHHHH!! — Darius (@Domingues_19) September 2, 2015
“It was hard at the start but it’s been not bad adjusting,” said Ryan McLeod. “The older guys have been telling me what to do and helping me out a lot so that makes it a lot easier going forward.”
Younger McLeod faces high expectations S
teelheads coach and general manager James Boyd knows the calibre of talent the younger McLeod has but also understands the pressure he faces coming into the OHL at such a young age.
“We’re going to let him find his own way here,” said Boyd. “It’s a difficult league to come into as a 15 year old and make an impact right away but I think that in time he will be a key player for us, an offensive player, but someone who is defensively responsible much like his older brother.”
Boyd sees no reason to rush Ryan, especially after seeing the growth of Michael over the past season.
“I think it’s a major adjustment period,” said the Steelheads bench boss. “I think Mike did a great job persevering because really, he went from minor midget to playing against first-found (NHL) draft picks.”
The coach also understands that playing in his hometown of Mississauga, Ont., alongside his older brother was something the youngest McLeod was always holding out for.
“They’re a close knit family: three brothers all playing hockey, they live close by, Ryan’s still at his home high school, it’s a good environment for anybody,” said Boyd. “But I think the fact that he’s got a brother on the team will help him along.”