When the 2018 NHL Draft was all set and done, a handful of teams walked out smirking thinking they found a player that dropped to them in comparison to where they were valued. One of those teams was the Edmonton Oilers and their general manager Peter Chiarelli. A case could be made that the scouting staff in Edmonton must’ve been over the moon.
They were able to claim Evan Bouchard (10th), Ryan McLeod (40th), and Olivier Rodrigue (62nd) within the first two rounds of the draft. While Bouchard will garner plenty of headlines this season as he suits up for the Oilers as a rookie, it’s McLeod that might end up being one of the biggest draft day steals. If you remember, the Mississauga-native was ranked 16th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
He was also placed 22nd on TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings, and 29th on Craig’s List by Craig Button. So what happened? How did McLeod fall to the Oilers at 40th if he was so highly touted by several draft reports? A huge reason for this might’ve been the run on defensemen that took place late in the first round between picks No. 21-31.
2018 NHL DRAFT – LATE RUN ON DEFENSEMAN
|PICK||PLAYER||DRAFTED BY||DRAFTED FROM|
|21||Ryan Merkley||San Jose Sharks||Guelph Storm (OHL)|
|22||K’Andre Miller||New York Rangers||U.S. NTDP (USHL)|
|24||Filip Johansson||Minnesota Wild||Leksands (Allsvenskan)|
|26||Jacob Bernard-Docker||Ottawa Senators||Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)|
|27||Nicolas Beaudin||Chicago Blackhawks||Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)|
|28||Nils Lundkvist||New York Rangers||Lulea (SHL)|
|29||Rasmus Sandin||Toronto Maple Leafs||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)|
|31||Alexander Alexeyev||Washington Capitals||Red Deer Rebels (WHL)|
Between those 11 selections, eight of them were blue liners. Ryan Merkley (21st), K’Andre Miller (22nd), Filip Johansson (24th), Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th), Nicolas Beaudin (27th), Rasmus Sandin (29th), and Alexander Alexeyev (31st) made up those rearguards.
Premium on Defenseman & Other Reasons McLeod Fell
There’s always a premium on blue liners, especially in this draft where there were a ton of first-round caliber defenders available. That wasn’t the only reason McLeod fell into the second-round. He wasn’t the only one to fall victim to the late round run on d-men as Isac Lundestrom (23rd), Dominik Bokk (25th), and Joe Veleno (30th) also suffered from the same consequences.
In most other drafts the likes of Lundestrom, Bokk, and Veleno might’ve gone amongst the Top 20 selections. The run on defenders started to slow into the early parts of the second round, with four others going before McLeod was eventually selected. Two notables were Jared McIssac (36th) and Jett Woo (37th) who were also in the conversation as late first-rounders. Bring that total to 12 defenders between No. 21 to 39.
So was he a victim of circumstance with all those defenders or was there something else going on here? For a player with a late Sept. 21 birthday, he narrowly missed the cut off for the 2017 NHL Draft. So wouldn’t that factor into one of the team’s decisions to get a more NHL ready prospect who, hypothetically, got another year of development in junior by missing the draft cut off?
One thing to consider is he’s playing in the shadow of his older brother Michael who was a 12th overall pick in 2016. They both played on the same junior team in the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads. He might’ve been overlooked when you consider a lack of exposure playing in minimal international competitions, and playing in the shadow of a brother who was a first rounder.
Oilers Looking to Buck Draft Trend with McLeod
Regardless, when the Oilers walked away with McLeod they got themselves a player that might end up bucking a shameful draft trend for the franchise. Going back over the past ten years, only three second-round picks drafted by Edmonton have gone on to play more than 100 games in the NHL. Only one of them played more than 200 games.
Now, have some reason with these numbers since the likes of Tyler Benson, McLeod, and Rodrigue are still in the infancy of their respective hockey careers. To find the last meaningful second-round selection that became a bonafide NHL’er, you’d have to go back 12 years to the 2006 NHL Draft.
OILERS DRAFT HISTORY – 2ND ROUND PICKS
|YEAR||PICK||PLAYER||DRAFTED FROM||NHL GP|
|2018||40th||Ryan McLeod (C)||Mississauga (OHL)||0|
|2018||62nd||Olivier Rodrigue (G)||Drummondville (QMJHL)||0|
|2016||32nd||Tyler Benson (LW)||Vancouver Giants (WHL)||0|
|2013||56th||Marco Roy (C)||Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)||0|
|2012||32nd||Mitch Moroz (LW)||Edmonton (WHL)||0|
|2011||31st||David Musil (D)||Vancouver (WHL)||4|
|2010||31st||Tyler Pitlick (C)||Minnesota State U. (NCAA)||138|
|2010||46th||Martin Marincin (D)||Slovakia U-20 (Slovakia)||177|
|2010||48th||Curtis Hamilton (LW)||Saskatoon (WHL)||1|
|2009||40th||Anton Lander (C)||Timra (SHL)||215|
Jeff Petry (45th, 2006) has gone on to be a strong NHL defender having played over 527 games in the league. That’s one bonafide NHL’er in 12 drafts for the Oilers. It’s not a pretty stat, and it only gets worse when you go back to the 1999 draft. The only others to play over 200 NHL games were Jarret Stoll (2002, 872 GP), Matt Green (2002, 615 GP), Brad Winchester (2000, 390 GP), and Alexei Semenov (1999, 211 GP).
Tyler Pitlick (2010, 31st) and Martin Marincin (2010, 46th) should soon make this stat a little bit better, but the fact still remains that Edmonton has struggled with their second-round selections (and beyond). How many have played 300 or more NHL games? Just four since 1999 (a span of 19 years). Petry was the last impactful player drafted in the second round by the Oilers, and that was 12 years ago.
McLeod’s Bright Future with the Oilers
The hope is that prospects like Benson and McLeod end that trend by becoming regulars for Edmonton in a few years time. In fact, fans got a glimpse into what the future might hold during the preseason schedule. Paired up on what was dubbed “The Kid Line” with Benson and Kailer Yamamoto, the trio was buzzing and displayed tons of speed and offensive creativity.
Related: Edmonton Oilers – Top 10 Prospects
In the early going they were one of Edmonton’s best lines in preseason. McLeod’s stock within the organization rose and he was one of the final 17 forwards as of Sept. 26. Now that he’s back in junior, a breakout year by the youngster is being anticipated. The now 19-year-old was included in the summer top prospects preview for Edmonton.
He ranked seventh, but it’s entirely possible with the graduations of Evan Bouchard (first) and Yamamoto (second) that McLeod shoots up into the top three in next year’s ranking. His ability to play both center and wing make him a versatile hand. He’s also shown an ability to play on both special teams with Mississauga.
With his brother and fellow teammate Owen Tippett out of the lineup to start the 2017-18 season, McLeod went on a tear to start the year. After posting just nine goals and 42 points in 68 games the year prior, McLeod exploded for 50 points in the first 40 games of the OHL season in his draft year. He’d finish off with 26 goals and 70 points in 68 games. While he might not be as fast as Michael, Ryan’s speed is still a factor.
McLeod’s Impressive Start to 2018-19
He’s a great skater and might be one of the few within the organization’s prospect bank that could keep up with the likes of Connor McDavid. He’s strong on the puck, shifty, and very smart on both sides of the puck. Down the road, the Oilers could have themselves a bonafide top-six forward that can play all three forward positions and put up a decent amount of points.
RYAN MCLEOD OHL STATS
Now that McLeod’s back in junior, it’s entirely possible that a 40-goal, 90-point season is within reach. That’s also factoring in he’d be missing a chunk of time competing with Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championships where he should be a top-nine fixture. In fact, McLeod is off to a torrid start in the OHL with Mississauga.
The forward has six points in four games already and has been heavily tasked with top-line minutes and an uptick in faceoff work. It’s a nice start, and right now the Oilers have to be salivating at the fact they might’ve just got a bonus first-round pick in McLeod. In the long-term Edmonton finally has a real player found in the second round that could end an ugly trend for the franchise.
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.