Today Michael McLeod turns 24-years-old. The New Jersey Devils forward made his NHL debut during the 2018-19 campaign where he appeared in 21 games. His development has been slow and steady, and it wasn’t until last season that he spent the entire duration with the big club. This season he has evolved into one of the team’s best penalty killers and a top center in the league. In 126 career NHL games, he has 12 goals and 31 points. Here are four fun facts about the Devils’ top penalty killer.
1. McLeod Is From a Hockey Town
McLeod is not the first player from Mississauga, Ontario to make it to the NHL. He is currently one of 13 players in the league including John Tavares and Jason Spezza. McLeod, who was drafted 12th overall by the Devils, is also the fifth highest pick from his hometown. During the offseason, he returns home to Ontario to train and last summer worked with his brothers, Wade Allison, and the Strome brothers who are also from Mississauga.
2. This Isn’t the First Time He Was Linemates With Bastian
For some, the term “Super Buddies” refers to the 2013 movie starring Zendaya. For others, it refers to the duo of McLeod and Nathan Bastian. The Devils’ teammates first became linemates during their time with the Steelheads of the OHL. Bastian explained the origin of the now-famous nickname.
“Me and [McLeod] used the exact same stick, curve, shot, grip, everything,” Bastian said back in 2017. “So instead of making two different orders of the same stick, the Mississauga’s equipment manager just had the ‘Super Buddies’ mark stamped on our sticks and we just took out of the same pile.”
In 2017, they helped their team to an OHL Central Division victory and hoisted the Bobby Orr Trophy, which is awarded to the winners of the Eastern Conference. McLeod served as Mississauga’s captain and led the Steelheads with 27 points in 20 games played during the playoffs.
They have since stopped using identical sticks, but the nickname has lived on as their off-ice friendship has been embraced by fans. Bastian was selected by the Seattle Kraken during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft but was claimed off of waivers by the Devils on Nov. 25 reuniting the ‘Super Buddies’.
3. Travis Zajac Showed Him the Ropes
In 2018, Dan Rice interviewed the then Devils prospect and asked if anyone in the locker room went out of their way to help him navigate life in the NHL. It was no surprise for him to say, the name of veteran Travis Zajac.
“I was here in New Jersey skating a lot with (Travis) Zajac and (Brian) Boyle,” said McLeod. “Those guys really showed me what it’s like, gave me some pointers, taught me about taking face-offs, and really just talking to me every day helped. They’re just nice guys and that stuff goes a long way.”
Zajac made the decision to hang up his skates on Sep. 2021. After the announcement, McLeod met with the media and said he is looking to take on the veteran’s role as a penalty killer as well as being utilized to win key faceoffs. He has earned both those roles and has averaged more short-handed ice time than any other forward on the team. Fans have seen the coaching staff put McLeod out for a crucial faceoff just to have him skate back to the bench. The 6-foot-2 forward is second on the team with 88 hits and has developed into a key bottom-six piece for the Devils.
4. McLeod and McDavid Won the Same Award
What do Connor McDavid, Sean Monahan, Steven Stamkos, and McLeod all have in common? They were each the recipients of the Tim Adams Memorial Trophy awarded to the player deemed as the most valuable player of the OHL Cup. The Devils center took home the honors in 2014.
McLeod had seven goals and four assists for a total of eleven points in seven games for the Toronto Marlboros. That season he appeared in 33 games and finished the regular season with 57 points. After the victory, he said he was purely focused on the win, but to be named the MVP was amazing.
There is no timetable for McLeod’s return as the team still has him listed with an upper-body injury. In 41 games this season he has proven himself as an important member of the roster with a team-leading 58.26 faceoff win percentage. The now 24-year-old is under contract for one additional season at $975,000 and will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the deal.
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Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.