Can Edmonton Oilers Ryan McLeod handle second line centre minutes?

Ryan McLeod has now played in a dozen NHL games, 10 of which in the regular season.

He’s scored only one point, an assist, in 144.88 minutes but has looked really good. McLeod plays a mature game though. He’s very positionally sound and has looked really good early.

The Oilers have controlled 49.59 percent of the shot attempts and 49.13 percent of the expected goals. The latter has taken a dip from 51.46 from the regular season, too.

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So the results with him on the ice haven’t been terrible and are likely better than that you could expect in a players first dozen games in the big leagues. It begs to ask the question: can he handle his new assignment?

Early Sunday the Oilers rolled out some new lines at practice ahead of tonight’s game, and McLeod is centring the second line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian.

Edmonton’s looking for a spark from their offence and the full line blender has come out. It’s really hard to say if it’s going to work. McLeod has shown well early, but hasn’t played much in the playoffs, just 17 minutes, and largely against bottom-six players.

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I think McLeod has shown well enough to take on the increased role and clearly Dave Tippett does too.

“McLeod is a good skater, transports the puck well through the neutral zone,” Tippett said earlier in the month. “McLeod, even though he’s a young guy, is mature and understands the game. He plays a smart game all the time.”

In the playoffs, he hasn’t created much offence but has the talent to do so. He was a point per game player in the AHL this year scoring 14 goals and as many assists in 28 games, so it’s not like he can’t create.

It shouldn’t take long to see what he’s able to do in the Oilers top-six playing alongside some guys that have some skill.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]


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