It hardly seems fair including Jared McCann on our list, but we don’t make the rules, we just write within them. Okay, actually, “yes” we do make the rules. So then, here is Jared McCann, one of the Cats great hopes to help poor Nick Bjugstad out, at second on our countdown.
#2 - Jared McCann - Forward - Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Highest Ranking: 2 Lowest Ranking: 3
Jared McCann landed in South Florida amidst what is, in South Florida, some hockey controversy. McCann was acquired in the shocking trade of popular potential future captain Erik Gudbranson, that seemed to come out of nowhere. Was it a money deal? Was it truly aimed at enhancing the Panthers 3rd line? Maybe a little of both?
McCann’s numbers in Vancouver last year were nothing to write home about, 9 goals in 69 games played. Most of those goals were scored in the first half of the season. Additionally, writers for that Canadian institution, TSN, picked up whispers that this 20-year old was not popular in the Canucks locker room. Further, in post trade interviews, McCann expressed how much he preferred the center position to wing, and we all know he will not play center in Florida. All of this, for South Florida, is about as controversial as it gets in hockey circles. Well, we declare: “baloney.”
Its time for a fresh start. South Florida sports is all about fresh starts, and this is especially the case in hockey. Stashed well-away from the leering Canadian press corps, players are mostly left-alone in the southern half of the Sunshine State. Jared McCann has earned his fresh start.
McCann voluntarily came to South Florida for Development Camp this summer, and has been around town for other portions of the off-season as well. He has displayed a dedicated focus on work-outs and strength conditioning, and the results have been noted by Panther brass: he is bigger and stronger than last season in Vancouver. He has also seemingly gotten along very well with his fellow Panther prospects, and was noted for the leadership he provided (from his experience in Vancouver last season), to the younger players at Development Camp. While an injury ultimately sidelined him for much of that camp, McCann has embraced the Panthers.
That is excellent news, because the Panthers and their fans are more than ready to embrace him. As starved as the team is for 3rd line wings who can contribute, he is seen as the great 3rd line wing hope. Consider that 3rd line center Nick Bjugstad played with the following cast of wingers last season: Rocco Grimaldi, Logan Shaw, Garrett Wilson, Kyle Rau, John McFarland, Teddy Purcell, Quinton Howden, Jiri Hudler, and Brandon Pirri. Seven of those nine players are no longer with the Panthers in any capacity. Enter McCann.
With McCann there is last season, and there is potential, and they are in conflict to a certain degree. The 9 goals and 9 assists in 69 games last season for Vancouver were mostly produced in the first half of the 2015-16 campaign. That limited output may have had something to do with him playing at 6’0”, 179 lbs. last year, as a 19-year old rookie. There were many who believed that he should have been returned to the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for another year of development rather than stick in the NHL with the Canucks.
It’s hard to say if McCann would have benefited from such a move. In 2014-15, McCann was better than a point-per-game player for the Greyhounds, with 81 points in 56 regular season games (34 goals, 47 assists). He continued on that pace in the playoffs that year, putting up 16 points in 14 games (6 goals, 10 assists). He finished that season, 2nd in points on the ‘Hounds. This followed his 2013-14 campaign, a 56-game season for the Greyhounds, during which he scored 27 goals and added 35 assists, to go with 7 points in 9 playoff games (2 goals, 5 assists) - also good for 2nd on the team in points.
It was that season that led to McCann being selected by Vancouver the first round of the 2014 NHL draft draft, 24th overall. His Elite Prospects scouting report from that time period is extensive and fantastic:
Elite and impactful, are certainly terms you like to see in a scouting report. Yet, the report also poses some concerns that remain part of the issues surrounding McCann today. Dobber Prospects was more staid in their scouting report, although they believed he could be a top-10 selection at the 2014 draft:
Move forward to last season, and what happened in Vancouver. The trending of the reports is noteworthy. Recall that I mentioned his goal scoring was heavily front-loaded?
Five of the nine goals he scored on the season in 2015-16, were in the first nine games he played. He would score only 4 more the rest of the way. The December, 2015 report was more oriented towards development into a middle-6 center:
Fast forward to April, 2016, and the report on McCann was aimed more at a two-way player than offensive stand-out:
There is no doubt that there were usage issues that likely hamstrung the young center. He spoke to that in an interview with Florida Panthers.com’s Jameson Olive:
McCann was used as a bottom-6 pivot in the Western Conference, with notable size and weight deficiencies. His lack of size was a big problem:
All of this returns us to the question of whether he would have been better served spending another season in the OHL. The answer is “probably not.” While McCann was not physically ready to play in the NHL, he was unlikely to gain anything from another year in juniors playing against 16 and 17-year-olds. There is no question he was a casualty of the NHL/CHL player agreement that prevented him from playing in the AHL (and that I am well-noted for hating). Where does that leave us with respect to McCann?
He has put on 25 lbs. since the end of last season, via diet and workouts. He has been noted for a workmanlike attitude, and wants to show the Panthers they made the right decision when they acquired him. Perhaps we are seeing the prospect that Hockey’s Future named the Canucks top prospect, in March, 2016, saying:
McCann is already an NHL player. He has been through one campaign, and faced the powers of the Western Conference on a nightly basis. He has done so as more of a checking line player, assigned to mostly 3rd and 4th line duty on what was a bad Vancouver team. Due to his injury at Development Camp, we have not yet seen much of the “new” McCann, and therefore have a hard time saying what it is the Panthers have in this stronger young man. Yet, the projections suggest that, at a minimum, the Cats have a usable middle-6 forward with offensive upside. One thing his likely linemate, Nick Bjugstad, showed in the playoff series with the Islanders is that he can attract and handle a lot of attention. This would suggest that McCann is about to be placed in a very favorable situation for all involved. That, my friends, bodes well.
There is a lot of competition for 3rd line wing positions on the Panthers at this year’s training camp. Every indication we can detect from this off-season suggests that McCann is coming in dedicated and more ready to compete. He stated to Jameson Olive, that he is comfortable on the wing, likes the Panthers skill-oriented game, and cares as much about offense as he does defense. We, at LBC, like his chances, and that is what has landed him at #2 on our list.