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Tampa Bay Lightning defensive prospect Johnathan MacLeod getting squeezed out of Boston University line up

A senior at BU, MacLeod has lost playing time to younger defensemen.

2014 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Defensemen Johnathan MacLeod is a second-round draft pick, 57th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. In that draft, GM Steve Yzerman and scouting director Al Murray targeted defensemen early to shore up this end of the depth chart. The forward depth was really solid and the team needed to add some defenders with upside to the pipe line.

In the first round, the team drafted Anthony DeAngelo 19th overall. He only lasted two season in the organization before being traded at the 2016 NHL Entry draft to the Arizona Coyotes, and has since been traded to the New York Rangers.

With the team’s next pick at 35th overall, they took Czech defender Dominik Masin. Masin spent two years in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes after being drafted. He made the jump to the AHL last season and put up six points in 69 games and had 73 penalty minutes.

Then came MacLeod at 57th overall. MacLeod has come up through the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP). He also played with Team USA in the U17 World Hockey Challenge, serving as Captain, and also played in the U18 World Junior Championships. Coming out of the draft, the consensus on MacLeod was that he projected as a stay-at-home third-pairing defenseman in the NHL. He has size and is currently listed at 6’2” and 200 pounds. The biggest question was if his mental game would catch up to his physical talents.

After being drafted and attending the Lightning’s development camp, MacLeod went to Boston University on an absolutely stacked team that was headlined by Jack Eichel. Many of BU’s top players had gaudy plus-minus numbers and MacLeod was a beneficiary of that talent with a plus-19 in his freshman year tying for second among BU’s defensemen. However, he only put up two goals and nine points.

The following two seasons were up and down for MacLeod. BU lost several of their most talented players to graduation, or in the case of Eichel, the NHL. While they were still a good team, they didn’t have quite the elite high end that they had in 2014-15. Down the stretch in his junior season though, he started to see more consistent playing time and was voted BU’s Most Improved Player.

Last summer, I heard some rumors going around that the Lightning had offered MacLeod an entry level contract if he wanted to leave BU early. Weather that’s true or not, he did return to BU for his senior year. Unfortunately for him, the BU coaching staff has decided to ride their younger defensemen this season and he’s only seen four games of action out of 10 games.

Senior Brandon Hickey (2014-3rd-CGY), Sophomores Dante Fabro (2016-1st-NSH) and Chad Krys (2016-2nd-CHI), and Freshmen Kasper Kotkansalo (2017-3rd-DET), Cameron Crotty (2017-3rd-ARI), and David Farrance (2017-3rd-NSH) have been BU’s primary top six defensemen. Farrance and Crotty have been rotated out for a couple games each for MacLeod’s four appearances.

For MacLeod, this isn’t very good news. Even if he had been able to sign with the Lightning over the summer, there wasn’t much of a place for him in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch with Erik Cernak’s acquisition plus Matt Spencer coming in as a rookie on the right side to go with second-year pro Ben Thomas and veteran Jamie McBain. MacLeod more than likely would have been sent to the ECHL.

Next year, MacLeod’s path to AHL playing time looks even tougher. The Lightning drafted right-handed defenseman Cal Foote in the first round of the draft this past summer. With his birthdate, Foote will turn 20 in time to be eligible for the AHL in 2018-19. Between the lack of space in the AHL, his lack of playing time this season, and the limited development over his four years at BU, MacLeod may be in a position next summer of looking for a contract with another organization. On the other hand, he’ll have his college degree.