May 25, 2014

Prospects Pulse: MacLeod an old-fashioned D-man

By Kirk Luedeke

Former KUA defender Johnathan MacLeod, now with the U.S. NTDP, boasts size, mobility and character. (Tom Sorensen)

When it comes to throwback defenders who keep things simple by taking pride in the way they work to keep the puck out of their own zone, they don’t come much more old school than Johnathan MacLeod.

The Dracut, Mass., native and U.S. NTDP standout has forged a sterling reputation for playing a hard-nosed but disciplined shutdown game. Although the Boston University recruit might not carry the kind of two-way game and high offensive ceiling that has become the norm for many higher-profile defenders, MacLeod has carved out a place for himself in the 2014 NHL draft class this June in Philadelphia.

“I think that overall, I bring a more mature (defensive) game,” MacLeod said recently. “That’s important at this level because guys are stronger and can skate faster than what I was used to (before the NTDP). That’s not to knock prep hockey, but every guy in the USHL can play, so going into the league as a 16-year-old and getting the chance to play against older kids was great for my development.”

MacLeod spent the 2011-12 season in prep skating for the Kimball Union Academy Wildcats, where his teammates included current BU defender and New York Islanders prospect Doyle Somerby (Marblehead, Mass.).

“At KUA you could tell he was special,” Somerby told New England Hockey Journal. “He committed to BU a month into his freshman year. But he had the ‘it’ factor. He is physically dominant; as a freshman he had so much confidence, and we actually worked really well together.”

Playing a style some NHL scouts say is reminiscent of former Bruins and current Winnipeg Jets veteran defender Mark Stuart, MacLeod’s excellent positional play, toughness and leadership skills make him a desired target.

“What is at the base of my game is being physical and providing toughness,” MacLeod said. “I’ve always been that way. There’s just something about hitting people that brings out the best for me, and I think there’s always going to be a place for it in hockey.”

Injured in the first part of the 2013-14 season, MacLeod returned late in the calendar year and has gotten his development back on track. He’s not the kind of household name you hear in some draft discussions, but don’t be surprised to see a team that covets the old-school values he represents.

“I’m excited for him to join us at BU next year and work with him again,” Somerby said. “He will help us a lot, and whatever team takes him will be extremely lucky. He’s a great kid and will always be one of my best friends.”

Johnathan MacLeod starred at Kimball Union before moving on to the U.S. National Team Development Program. In the fall, he'll play for Boston University. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)


By the numbers: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Born: June 2, 1996

Shoots: Right

Position: Defense, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Hometown: Dracut, Mass.

Previous teams: Kimball Union Academy, Cardigan Mountain School, New England Cyclones AAA, Lowell Junior River Hawks

NCAA commitment: Boston University (2014)

Favorite team, players growing up: Bruins; P.J. Stock, Sergei Samsonov, Joe Thornton

Patterns own game after: Dion Phaneuf

Scouting report: Solidly built defender who brings a decided physical edge to his playing style. Good straight-line skater but needs to improve lateral mobility to better stay with shifty/elusive opponents when they cut across the grain. Uses his impressive upper-body strength and leg drive to pin opponents against the boards. Active stick and an instinctive player in his own end; does not grant much time and space to the puck carrier and takes away passing lanes. Big, heavy shot that he could stand to use more. Not a particularly skilled offensive player, but does not try to be something he is not. Makes sound decisions under pressure when retrieving the puck. Never wastes his effort; comes to the rink prepared and ready to play every night. A leader who defends teammates and can always be counted on to bring the intensity factor when the going gets rough.

Draft outlook: With his size, mobility and character, watch for MacLeod to go inside the top three rounds in Philadelphia. There isn’t a ton of upside, but MacLeod is a safe pick who is a good bet to make the NHL and play for a long time as a steady shutdown defender.

In his own words: Strengths: “I think my defensive zone coverage is pretty sound. I try to get what I can out of all the drills we do that focus on the defensive elements: stick on pucks, taking the body and boxing guys out. It’s about focusing on the details and constant repetition of those details to play that effective physical game the right way.”

Why he chose BU: “Growing up north of the city, I was always a Boston kid. … I loved the Bruins, and for me, it was Boston University because my older brother, Chris, was a big BC fan. There’s just something about the program and after watching all those great teams under (head coach) Jack Parker, it was a dream come true when they offered (a scholarship).”

Pop Culture Corner 

Favorite TV show: “Entourage”

Red Sox, Pats, Celtics or Revolution: "Red Sox; Dustin Pedroia is my favorite athlete.”

Ideal golf partners: (Alabama QB) A.J. McCarron and (actor) Vince Vaughn

Scouts Out: “(MacLeod) is a big, tough kid and shutdown guy. I like that he knows what he is and plays within himself. He’s got to improve the skating and play with the puck, but he’s an impressive physical presence who brings that edge you look for.” 

— NHL scout, Western Conference


New England 2014 NHL Draft Prospects Top 8 for April

1. Ryan Donato, C, Dexter School

(HS-Mass.), 6-1, 180 (Scituate, Mass.)

Cruised to the prep scoring title this season and might have done enough to earn a spot on the USA Under-18 championship squad later this month.

2.  Shane Eiserman, LW, Dubuque (USHL), 6-1, 200 (Newburyport, Mass.)

After a sluggish fall, Eiserman has come on like gangbusters in the second half of the season, impressing observers with his power game.

3. Beau Starrett, LW, South Shore

(USPHL), 6-4, 195 (Bellingham, Mass.)

“Upside” is the way we like to spell his name; teams that sleep on this fledgling power forward will be left holding the bag in Philly.

4.  Johnathan MacLeod, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-1, 200 (Dracut, Mass.)

5. Max Willman, LW, Williston-Northampton (HS-Mass.), 6-0, 175 (Barnstable, Mass.)

Outstanding prep season in a PG year has set the stage for this skilled forward to get a draft nod in June.

6.  Miles Gendron, D, Rivers School

(HS-Mass.), 6-2, 178 (Shrewsbury, Mass.)

His 19 points as a senior were good for second in scoring on the Red Wings under former NHLer Shawn McEachern (Waltham, Mass.).

7. Tyler Bird, RW, Kimball Union Academy (HS-N.H.), 6-2, 200 (Andover, Mass.)

Crushed it in second half of prep season; big-bodied power forward stole the show down the stretch in leading KUA to 2014 small-school prep title.

8. J.D. Dudek, C, Kimball Union

Academy (HS-N.H.), 5-11, 175

(Auburn, N.H.)

Smart, slick passer has done nothing but rack up the points for the Wildcats this year, but still not getting the kind of buzz he’s worthy of. Yet.

2014 Sleeper Alert:

Bryan Lemos, C, Boston Jr. Bruins (USPHL)

5-10, 180 (E. Providence, R.I.)

Not many are tracking this savvy set-up man and former LaSalle Academy star, but don’t be surprised to hear his name more and more as we approach June.

Mike Lee, D, The Gunnery (HS-Conn.)

6-0, 186 (Hamden, Conn.)

Once thought to be more of a shutdown type, this University of Vermont recruit showed a lot more two-way skill in helping the Highlanders push prep champion Salisbury to the brink by forcing OT.

This article originally appeared in the April edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to access the FREE digital edition.

Twitter: @kluedeke29