Jared McCann had an exceptionally promising start to his rookie campaign. After winning a spot on the roster on the back of a strong training camp and pre-season, McCann put a stunning five goals through his first nine NHL contests, demonstrating a wicked shot and strong footspeed. After that explosion, however, things went downhill for the 19-year-old.
He finished the campaign with just nine goals and 18 points through 69 games, which means McCann scored just four times over his last sixty games. While those numbers aren’t godawful, considering his front loaded start, it’s easy to be alarmed by the inconsistency of McCann’s offence. Admittedly, McCann hardly got the greatest wingers in the world, but nonetheless, one would hope for a bit more than one goal every 15 games for a player of McCann’s mold.
In fact, it’s not the offensive output that’s worrisome with McCann. It’s the fact that, when he’s not scoring, he’s not doing much else. Whereas his draft counterpart Jake Virtanen scored at 0.23 points per game pace, compared to McCann’s 0.26, Virtanen brought something to the table that not many Canucks forwards do: physicality. Virtanen is arguably the only Vancouver forward to bring game changing hits to the table on a regular basis, and, while the rest of his game needs some refining, there is no doubt that physically, Virtanen can handle NHL-level competition.
That’s where the problems lie with Jared McCann. It’s not that he doesn’t have the talent, or event that he’s incapable of producing at NHL level. It’s that physically, he is simply not ready, and his defensive play has suffered as a result. McCann finished the season with a faceoff percentage a shade above 34.7%, among the worst efficiency rates in the entire National Hockey League. Should McCann continue down a path that sees him playing up the middle, and that appears to be what management would like, he will have to improve in the dot, and the best for him to do that is to play in the AHL against players his size. If he were to join the Utica Comets in 2016-17, McCann would certainly play as one of the club’s top-six centers, and very possibly as their #1. This would be an incredibly beneficial scenario for the former 1st round pick, and would allow him to get experience not only on the defensive side of the game, but also acting as the go-to scorer for a team once again.
All in all, Jared McCann did not have a disastrous rookie campaign, nor did he have a great one. Some aspects of his game, namely his shot and foot speed, were encouraging, and make the future of the young forward intriguing. Others, without question, need some work, and are why a year in the AHL would do McCann some good. He has proven he can be an adequate piece at the NHL level, but with more complete players coming up the pipeline, namely the likes of Brendan Gaunce and Anton Rodin, he simply doesn’t warrant a permanent spot next year. He will get another chance in the world’s best league, but for now, Utica is the best spot for him.