On the day of the 2010 NHL draft, the Canucks, already bereft of their 2nd and 3rd round picks – which, they’d used to acquire Steve Bernier and Andrew Alberts respectively – traded Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier, and their first round pick (Joey Hishon) for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. As a result, the team didn’t pick until the fourth round, when they used the 115th pick to select gifted offensive defenseman Patrick McNally from Milton – a prep-school in Massachusetts.
Patrick McNally was coming off a solid junior season in which he recorded fourteen goals, thirty-five points, and was named New England Prep School’s Defenseman of the year. For the 2010/11 season, McNally opted to stay in school, as opposed to joining the USHL, and captained Milton to the school’s first ever New England Prep-School championship. Along the way he scored twenty-two goals and put up fifty one assists against inferior competition, scoring a hat-trick in the semi-final after his team dug themselves an early deficit. I asked all around bad-ass dude Kirk Luedeke – a prospects writer for the New York and New England Hockey Journal – for his general impressions of Patrick McNally’s play and leadership ability, here’s what Kirk had to say:
"McNally wore the ‘C’ at Milton, so he had a clearly defined leadership role from coach Paul Cannata. He certainly carried the offensive play, but at times was pretty reckless and undisciplined in terms of his decisions to rush the puck as opposed to making the simple play. That said, his team went all the way, so things worked out well for him. He never really struck me as a player who exerted his leadership on- or off the ice, but he was certainly a productive player for the Mustangs. And, he captained them to a prep championship. So, I would say mission accomplished."
McNally will join the Harvard Crimson this upcoming season – we all know Gillis likes his players smart. McNally should play a modest role at even-strength and get some prime powerplay time. Dave Gagner said at Canucks prospect camp that Crimson head-coach and former NHLer Ted Donato plans on using McNally as a "top power-play guy" in McNally’s NCAA rookie season, and on giving the defenseman some freedom to rush the puck. Gagner also compared McNally’s puck-rushing skills to Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith, which, is (absurdly?) high praise.
In the absence of any NHL equivalency numbers for New England prep-hockey, I decided to compare McNally’s senior year offensive production with other Massachusetts Prep-School players who’ve made the NHL (or been recently drafted). Some Massachusetts Prep-School products include: Hal Gill, Paul Mara, Tom Poti, Ryan Whitney and Zach Bogosian. When I crunched the numbers, however, I realized I should probably restrict my comparison to the last ten years, because the numbers in the early and mid 90s were hilarious. Poti, for example, had two straight seventy point seasons (playing less than thirty games) from the blueline, and Hal Gill scored 25! goals in 20 games in 1993. I also threw out Whitney and Bogosian because they left the Prep-School system before their senior years. That left me with the following six players: ECHL/AHLer Anthony Aiello, Mark Fayne of the Devils, Patrick McNally, AHLer Noah Welch, Phoenix Coyotes All-Star Keith Yandle, and Colorado Avalanche prospect Gus Young. Here’s how these six defenseman performed offensively in their senior years:
Obviously that’s the sort of production one wants to see as a Canucks fan, but, let’s not get too excited here. First of all, McNally is clearly an extremely talented offensive defenseman – but Yandle is a singular talent. It’s highly unlikely that McNally will ever match Yandle’s quality of play in the NHL. Secondly, McNally is going to the NCAA next season. Yandle on the other hand, went directly from high-school to Moncton where he put up 80 points, won the QMJHL title and was named the leagues best defenseman in his first season. Still, I’m a giddy homer, so I decided to ask Kirk about the Yandle comparison in particular:
Yandle isn’t a bad comparison for McNally, but to Yandle’s credit, he’s come a long way defensively from what he was in prep- he’s learned to do a lot of the little things that he wasn’t asked to do at Cushing because he was such a dangerous puck rusher/offensive contributor. McNally possess the requisite skill to lead the rush and take some chances, but he did do a lot of free-wheeling. That kind of thing worked for him at the prep level, but won’t at higher levels. He’s got the tools, but he’s going to have to rein it in a bit and not be the kind of go-go-go player on offense all the time. He’s got some legitimate upside, but he’s raw because of the competition level and has a lot of developing to do. Like most guys coming out of prep, he’s on a longer-term projection and glidepath for the NHL, but he has the talent to become a player eventually.
Having read that, and looked at the numbers, it seems to me that McNally may ultimately have a higher ceiling than the likes of Ryan Parent or Adam Polasek. Certainly the package of speed, size and production that McNally brings looks promising, but how he develops over the next couple years at Harvard will determine whether or not he ends up being a steal for the Canucks.