Canucks’ McCann Centering The First Line Offers Glimpse Into The Future

Henrik Sedin’s injury forced him to catch an early flight back to Vancouver in order to recover in time for a post-All-Star break return. As Sedin took off from New York in airplane, so did all that was left of Vancouver’s reliable center position. The Canucks are preparing to face former head coach Alain Vigneault and his struggling but extremely talented New York Rangers squad without both Sedin and Brandon Sutter, their only two veteran centers.

Without those two in the lineup it’s up to the youngsters to hold down the fort. Desjardins has confirmed that he’s got Jared McCann centering the first line between leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen. It’s an opportunity for McCann to showcase himself on a new level. The only thing standing in his way is…well…a lot. Lack of experience and an incredibly dangerous top-six on the opposing side will force McCann to play his best NHL game possible.

The statistics for tonight’s game are baffling. Seriously baffling. Vancouver’s four centers slotted in to play on Tuesday night’s matchup (Linden Vey, Bo Horvat, Adam Cracknell and McCann) combine for just 379 games of NHL experience. Meanwhile across the red-line the Rangers four centers account for 1,290 games of NHL experience. It’s a daunting task for McCann and company to go toe-to-toe with that cast of Rangers. Fortunately the Canucks center group might just have the perfect set of quirky assets to combat the Rangers skill and speed.

McCann Provides the Offense…Hopefully

If all goes as planned McCann will have some uncanny chemistry with Daniel and Hansen. Realistically McCann will have to work his tail off in order to produce against an aggravated Rangers team. The Canucks’ McCann is just 19-years-old and in his first year in the league. He’s been inconsistent offensively at times recording just twelve points in his 41 appearances but he’s also displayed a sort of magical physical ability. He skates like a pro, holds his stick like a pro and acts like a pro. The goals he has scored have been quality and he’s gone up against some of the league’s best in Ryan Getzlaf and most recently John Taveres. He hasn’t looked any more tired than anyone else on the team and that’s a good thing for the streaky Canucks.

The Canucks look for their third straight victory, something that’s been a struggle for them this season. And with Henrik Sedin on the sidelines it will be a challenge for them to achieve the goal. But Daniel Sedin is notorious for playing solid hockey when his brother takes those rare vacations and Jannik Hansen is an automatic injection of adrenaline for anyone he plays with given his speed and intensity. McCann could have no better linemates to try and jump start his offensive production for the second half of the season. For him, production wouldn’t just feel nice but it would give the Canucks an even bigger log jam at the number two center position with Sutter, Horvat and McCann all being arguably worthy.

The team has made it clear that McCann’s biggest problem in adapting to the NHL has been getting bigger. So on some nights the team has kept him out of the lineup just to give him extra time to workout. It’s an innovative move for the team, most times young players are relied upon to seamlessly enter the league and be instant impact players. For the Canucks’ McCann he’s been given a protective bubble to work from within…and it could have huge implications for his future.

Canucks’ McCann Has All the Resources He Needs

There is no sense of desperation when it comes to the Canucks prospects. Although Virtanen has struggled at times and McCann has been offensively streaky, the Canucks are sitting them down and saying “look guys, you’re all that we’ve got… I’m expecting big things immediately”. No, instead they are letting their young players compliment a solid group of veterans, learn from true professionals, make mistakes without reprimand and are paying close attention to the day-by-day development of each young guy.

“In a perfect world, Desjardins wants McCann to play, then sit out and get stronger so he’s more effective when re-inserted into the lineup. That’s understandable. But McCann’s only plan is to play as much as possible,” ~ Ben Kuzma, The Province

McCann’s got a long career ahead of him and stunting his growth with an overly intense first year would be crazy. Going into training camp McCann wasn’t even considered a long shot to make the team, let alone a guy that would stick around and be the number one center fill-in. So McCann will get a truly golden opportunity on Tuesday night. One he may not get anymore this year, so we can be sure he’ll take advantage of it as much as he can. As soon as Henrik returns from injury it can be expected that McCann will see an extended break from game action to focus on his training. And for Coach Desjardins it’s a no-brainer that McCann should take those breaks.

“If you asked him, I think he’d say he wants to play every night. I do think for a young guy, when you just keep going in (to play) over and over and over again, I think sometimes you can get a little overwhelmed. I also think he can get stronger by having a little time off to work out. Those are things we have to continue to look at,” Coach Willie Desjardins via Iain Macintyre, The Vancouver Sun

McCann has a few days to bask in the spotlight of a number one center. And for Canucks fans, this could be a futuristic glimpse into the future of the club as McCann, Horvat and the rest of the youngsters look to prove a point.