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Mississauga Steelheads’ Mike McLeod aims to get cooking at home: Making The Jump

August 20, 2014
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McLeod helped the Marlboros capture the OHL Cup midget crown (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

Mike McLeod is quick to see parallels to another centre who graced the Hershey Centre once upon a time.

“I’m probably like Jason Spezza,” the Mississauga Steelheads’ No. 4 overall pick says when asked which big-leaguer he strives to emulate. “He’s kind of like me in terms of build. He’s a good playmaker and he drives the net too. Good leader.”

McLeod has miles to go in order to become an established NHLer, but at least he won’t be too great a distance from his family home. By joining the Steelheads, who recently signed a four-year arena lease extension, the 6-foot-1½, 180-pound pivot will have be able to live at home as a rookie.

“I love it,” says McLeod, who was named most valuable player of the year-end OHL Cup showcase tournament after leading his Toronto Marlboros AAA midget club to victory. “It’s the best of worlds, playing OHL and nothing beats home.

“It didn’t really sink in until a couple weeks after,” adds McLeod, who credits the tutelage of his Marlies coach, NHL legend Paul Coffey, for helping him continue to progress last season. “Everyone I now was preparing to move away. I feel like if I was moving away, it would be a lot tougher. I’m glad I don’t have to move away. It’s one more thing I don’t have to worry about.”

The 16-year-old Mississauga native possesses the speed, skill, shiftiness to command the flow of play in the offensive zone. Moreover, McLeod also possesses the size to protect the puck and ward off defenders. The Steelheads are also coming off a season where they scored 17 fewer goals than the OHL’s second-lowest scoring team, which means McLeod should have opportunities to inject some instant offence. The centre is buoyed by how he’s fared in summer scrimmages with older OHLers.

“I’m just trying to go into the year with confidence. Hopefully try to put up a couple points and just help the team win. I’ve been skating with a lot of OHL guys. I’ve been trying to play with a lot of confidence when I go into those. Just don’t be scared.

“I like the high pace,” adds McLeod, who’s eager for his first OHL matchup against his close friend, Erie Otters sophomore Dylan Strome “It’s just about facing bigger guys and being more aware of what is going on.”

1. What is an area of your game that you feel will need a lot of work this season?

“I’d like to improve my defensive coverage and positioning. My midget team was pretty strong and we had the puck a lot. So I think I will need to focus on D zone a little more. I’d like to master that.”

2. What do you feel is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome, so far?

“Probably just adapting to minor midget, having the scouts everywhere. You have to learn to focus on playing your game and not worrying about the scouts. It was a lot different at first.”

3. Apart from your parents (Judi and Richard), who is one person that you credit for your success?

“Probably my coach this year, Paul Coffey. He is in Hall of Fame, obviously, and he taught me a lot. He was good about letting you play your game. He has a good style of coaching. He doesn’t have too many systems. He likes just letting us play. I like that. he’ll give us all the background information but won’t say, ‘you have to this.’ “

4. If hockey was out of the picture, what sport could you see yourself playing?

“Probably rugby. I played it in Grade 9 in high school [at Lorne Park Secondary School in Mississauga] and I liked it a lot. I was a winger.”

5. What is your favourite movie?

Dodgeball. Or The Mighty Ducks series.”

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

Article source: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/jrhockey-buzzing-the-net/mississauga-steelheads-mike-mcleod-making-jump-163336541.html

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