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Former Steelheads to watch in the NHL this season

(Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

By: Mitchell Fox

The city of Mississauga has produced a ton of hockey talent. From Jason Spezza and John Tavares to the Strome brothers and many more, the city has provided the NHL with stars, role players and everything in between. In addition to players from the city comes the players that have played in the city, including in the Ontario Hockey League.

Mississauga’s first appearance in the OHL came with the Mississauga IceDogs in 1998, who were moved to Niagara (St. Catherines) in 2007 and replaced by the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors for a handful of years. Both franchises were home to some remarkable NHL players, including Spezza and Alex Pietrangelo (Ice Dogs) and Casey Cizikas and 2018 Stanley Cup hero Devante Smith-Pelly (Majors).

Today’s version of the team, the Mississauga Steelheads, entered the scene in 2012 following the sale of the Majors to owner Elliott Kerr and subsequent renaming. In the time since, they have made the OHL finals once and only missed the playoffs once. More significantly, they have produced some strong NHL prospects, including many that are playing in the league today.

With the OHL season around the corner and the Steelheads looking primed for a run at success, here is a list of some of the players that have donned the trout logo that fans can watch in the NHL in 2022-23.

Dylan DeMelo - D, Winnipeg Jets

DeMelo is entering his eighth season in the NHL, having played 397 NHL games between the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets, where he will be returning this season. Well before that, DeMelo played four OHL seasons in Mississauga, three with the St. Michael's Majors and one with the Steelheads in their inaugural season.

Though his 50 points in 64 games as the Steelheads’ assistant captain in 2012-13 were impressive for a blueliner, he has since become a respected stay-at-home defensive defenceman, totalling 565 hits and 510 blocks in his NHL career so far. Fans can expect to see plenty of DeMelo as a staple on the Jets’ second or third pairing.

Mason Marchment - W, Dallas Stars

Mississauga was just one stepping stone along a unique career path for Marchment, who played 27 games with the Steelheads during the 2015-16 season. The power forward from Uxbridge, Ont., has been quite the journeyman in his career, having played for 3 teams over 2 OHL seasons then making his way up through the East Coast Hockey League and American Hockey League.

In 2021-22, however, the 26-year-old Marchment broke out as a bonafide NHL player with the Florida Panthers, notching 47 points in 54 games and a noteworthy 64.75% expected goals for percentage (per Evolving Hockey). The effort, which also led to Selke Trophy nominations, earned him a four-year, 18 million dollar contract from the Dallas Stars over the offseason, something he will surely look to make the most of in 2022-23.

Michael McLeod - C/W, New Jersey Devils

Michael McLeod is a familiar name for many Steelheads fans not only as a former star for the team but as a hometown kid. The Mississauga native was the Steelheads’ captain in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and was a key piece in the team’s run to the OHL finals in 2017, contributing 73 points in 57 regular season games and 27 points in 20 playoff games.

McLeod was sought-after in the 2016 NHL draft and was selected 12th overall by the Devils. Though his 40 points in 162 career NHL games may not live up to the expectations that come with such a status, the 24-year-old McLeod has become at least an option in the Devils’ bottom six.

Ryan McLeod - C/W, Edmonton Oilers

Michael was not the only member of the McLeod family to make a mark on the Steelheads en route to the NHL. His brother Ryan also played parts of four seasons in Mississauga, contributing as an assistant captain and a dependable scorer both alongside and away from his older brother.

Ryan McLeod has played 81 career NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him in the second round of the 2018 NHL draft. Though his development in the Oilers’ system was affected by the pandemic, McLeod created a spot for himself in the NHL last year, posting 21 points in 71 games and offering a solid two-way game. The 23-year-old re-signed with the Oilers this offseason and will likely earn more opportunities on their third line in 2022-23.

Owen Tippett - W, Philadelphia Flyers

Owen Tippett is yet another staple from the Steelheads team that made the run to the OHL finals in 2017. He played parts of four seasons with the Trout and was traded alongside Ryan McLeod during the team’s difficult 2017-18 season.

Tippett has played 115 games and put up 40 points in his NHL career so far, mostly with the Panthers, who drafted him with the 10th overall pick in 2017. This year, however, Tippett will seek to take advantage of a full season in Philadelphia, where he was traded as part of the Claude Giroux trade last season. The 23-year-old will look to bring back the elite scoring touch he showed in Mississauga as he earns greater opportunities on a team expected to be noticeably weaker than last year’s Presidents Trophy winners.

Nicolas Hague - D, Vegas Golden Knights

Standing at 6-foot-6, Nic Hague is almost certain to be a fun player to watch in his third season in Vegas. Hague was yet another key member of the Steelheads, having been an assistant captain on the 2016-17 team and the captain in 2017-18, when he also contributed a remarkable 78 points in 67 games.

Hague has already played 142 games in his NHL career but 2022-23 may be his opportunity to push beyond a depth role and become a lock in the Golden Knights lineup. His usage mainly in the defensive zone last season may have reflected his mighty size and physical presence (Hague has 171 shot blocks and 220 hits in his NHL career) but it will be fascinating to see if new Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy deploys the former Steelhead a bit differently, perhaps in a role that allows his past offensive production to creep back into the picture.

Nathan Bastian - W, New Jersey Devils

Bastian, like Michael McLeod, came through Mississauga en route to being drafted by New Jersey and making his way up the Devils’ system. Though Bastian was pulled away by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, his second trip to the sea would be short-lived, as the Devils would claim him through waivers 12 games into last season.

Bastian was a key piece for the Steelheads (he had 59 points in 64 games one season) but his fit as a two-way specialist as opposed to a dominant scorer was fairly evident. Now, fans can look forward to watching the 6-foot-4 winger impose his gritty defensive style as a part of the Devils’ bottom six forward group.

Thomas Harley - D, Dallas Stars

Thomas Harley comes from a different era of Steelheads hockey and is really the first player to join the Steelheads after their 2017 finals run to make a name for himself in the NHL. The 6-foot-3 lefty brings some of the qualities of Hague and DeMelo, carrying on a legacy of strong skaters to come out of the Steelheads organization.

Though 4 points in 34 NHL games may be underwhelming, the 18th pick from the 2019 NHL draft has plenty of time to develop. Still, there may not be a better opportunity than under new coaching and an aging core in Dallas to claim a spot on an NHL blueline, so Harley could be a player to keep an eye on in 2022-23.

Other former Steelheads fans may see in the NHL this year:

Spencer Martin - G, Vancouver Canucks organization

Martin tended the Steelheads’ goal for three seasons before starting his climb through the Colorado Avalanche prospect system. The now 27-year-old netminder has taken the long road since being drafted in 2013, but may be an outside option for the Canucks’ backup role following a 2021-22 in which he posted a 19-4-2 record and .914 save percentage in the AHL and a 3-0-3 record and .950 sv% in the NHL.

Sean Day - D, Tampa Bay Lightning organization

Day was a staple on the Steelheads blueline for parts of 4 seasons before being traded to the Windsor Spitfires early on in the 2016-17 season. Since being drafted by the New York Rangers in 2016, Day has made his way up through the ECHL and AHL, eventually setting foot on NHL ice for the first time last year, playing two games for the Lightning. If Day can bring anything similar to his 2021-22 performance with the Syracuse Crunch, which included 40 points in 69 games, he may find himself as at least a depth option for the Lightning.

Jacob Moverare - D, Los Angeles Kings organization

Moverare, the dynamic defenceman from Sweden, played for the Steelheads in 2016-17 and 2017-18. The 2016 fourth-round draft pick may not be a lock to earn a spot on a Kings blueline that still has most of the pieces from its trip to the playoffs last year, but if injuries hit or players start off on the wrong foot, Moverare might be one to watch to make the jump from the AHL. He had two assists in 19 NHL games last season.

Cole Schwindt - W, Calgary Flames organization

Schwindt was the first member of his family to play for the Steelheads, but not the last. His brother Kai is likely to play an important role on a contending team in Mississauga this year while younger brother Brady’s rights were acquired from the Kitchener Rangers over the offseason. As for Cole, the 2019 third-round draft pick made a move of his own this offseason, having been traded to Calgary as part of the blockbuster trade involving Matthew Tkachuk, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar. It is possible Schwindt will get more than the three NHL games he played with Florida last season, but he will likely start out with the Flames’ renamed AHL affiliate, the Calgary Wranglers.

Alex Nylander - W, Pittsburgh Penguins organization

One former Steelhead whose 2022-23 appears especially hard to predict is Alex Nylander, who made quite an impression in one season in Mississauga in 2015-16, leading the team (which featured most of the players mentioned above) with 75 points in 57 games. Nylander was subsequently drafted eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres but has had a difficult time becoming a NHL-regular since. On the heels of some injuries and trades over the past couple of seasons, Nylander will hope to crack a Penguins lineup that is looking to contend.


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