Jared McCann wasn’t expected to make the Vancouver Canucks opening night roster but defied the odds and conventional wisdom to carve out a prescribed role in the bottom-six, playing sheltered minutes by and large.
Though it mightn’t have been in McCann’s best interests — physically undeveloped as he was and may still be — it served the Canucks short-term goals, as their depleted centre depth called for help in whatever form they could find it. The need for McCann evolved from that of the fourth-line anchor to first-line fill-in by December, with the 19-year-old rookie pivot taking his turn in the injured Henrik Sedin’s spot between Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen. Then back again to the fourth and occasionally the press box.
It was a season of ups and downs, but on the whole highly productive given the circumstances. There were moments where McCann flashed an offensive knack, particularly with his hard wrist shot that caught NHL goaltenders off guard on more than one occasion. Let’s see the body of work as a whole, though, on the other side of the jump.
As you can see, McCann played a nice number of games in his rookie season. McCann crossed the games played threshold for starting his entry-level contract and knocking a season off before his unrestricted free agency. If McCann’s production was prorated to account for an entire 82 game season, the number is closer to 21 points, which is a pretty excellent mark for a 19-year-old, first-year centre on a fourth line. Then again, so much of this was from his hot month of October.
Young players and rookies in particular are known to struggle as possession players. Likely the byproduct of an undeveloped defensive game. Though McCann’s minutes were soft and sheltered as they come, it’s encouraging all the same that he had a net positive impact on the Canucks ability to control the shot attempt differential.
McCann’s underlying goal data isn’t spectacular in any sense of the word — neither good nor bad. Believe it or not, that’s kind of a good thing. Encouraging at the very least. Digging a little deeper, though, I found that McCann is sporting a GF%RelTM of 3%, which indicates that he’s helping his linemates drive goal differential on the whole.
McCann could stand to improve upon tilting the scoring chance needle for his team. Then again, I’m willing to cut McCann a tonne of slack, given that his two primary linemates were Derek Dorsett and Alexandre Burrows.
The Canucks have an excellent piece to build with in McCann. It’s becoming increasingly clear that McCann’s offensive punch is considerably more potent than we gave him credit for at the draft and it’s hardly at the expense of his defensive game, which was passable in his first year as a professional hockey player.
McCann likely would’ve been best served by spending last season in the AHL, but that just wasn’t a possibility the Canucks could explore. It’s one they can explore next season, though, and one they might even be forced to look into, as the acquisition of Markus Granlund at last year’s trade deadline has added another body to the Canucks already heavy centre group. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I wonder if that drives somewhat of a wedge between the Canucks and their prized prospect.
Of course, there’s also the possibility the Canucks cash in on McCann’s high value and part ways with him to help develop their blue line. Others have mused on the possibility and I certainly wouldn’t rule it out myself. Whatever the case, it appears as though the next chapter to McCann’s career as a Canuck might not unfold in Vancouver. Let’s just hope that he can, at some point, build on this most encouraging introduction.