Jared McCann is nineteen years old. Last season he was a star of the Ontario Hockey League. A year later he has 30 NHL games under his belt and has been the sparkle in an otherwise dark season for the Canucks. It wasn’t always supposed to be this way though.
Going into the season analysts claimed that it wasn’t realistic that McCann would make the club this year. He told them to shove it…pretty much.
Just ten games away from the halfway point of the season and McCann is tied for third on the team in goals. He’s been solid in the faceoff circle and more than anything McCann has shown that he has professional poise on the ice. In other words, he isn’t scared of Jack.
And that’s the exact reason why McCann has no place being sent to the World Junior Championship where he would be a man among children.
Sure it’s been a tough year in Vancouver. The team is sitting near the bottom of the league standings and has virtually no secondary scoring behind Radim Vrbata and Alexandre Burrows (who have both been offensively inconsistent this year). But in terms of a glimpse into the future this year has been interesting.
The Future Awaits
The team currently carries four players that are under the age of 24 (Sven Baertschi, Brendan Gaunce, Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton). They have rostered – at some point of the season – ten different players aged 24 or younger. It’s obvious – and that’s meant in every possible respect of the word – that the Canucks are shifting their focus to their future as a franchise and not their present.
They found a gem in Hutton. Baertschi is so far a bust. Gaunce hasn’t been able to stick for whatever reason. Horvat is experiencing the all too common sophomore slump. Virtanen is facing demotion to the WHL. Kenins has lost his surprise factor and Shinkaruk just doesn’t have the strength…it goes on and on. But the story with McCann is different.
He’s played all over the lineup. He’s taken defensive zone and offensive zone faceoffs and he’s had a handful of different elite wingers as options. He’s gone toe to toe with Ryan Getzlaf (well almost) and he’s scored more goals thus far than four time 25-plus goal scorer Alexandre Burrows. The kid is ready for the NHL and there’s no reason he should take time away from it.
Jared McCann Will Learn From the Struggles
Okay so the pun was bad. But the idea – flawless. McCann has clearly proven that he’s developed enough to produce at the NHL level. One could argue that with a better team and more consistent offense McCann would probably be well over the mark he’s currently at (nine points in 30 games played).
Maybe people are pointing at Horvat’s offensive struggles this season and saying “see I knew he should have spent one more year in junior” but remember that the Canucks have been dismal for most of this season and that has an absolute impact on the depth of the roster. The only players producing offense for the Canucks on a consistent basis are the ones that always have (Henrik, Daniel, Edler, Hansen and finally Vrbata).
That would be an ill-advised way to gauge McCann’s potential though. The team was winning last year, near the top of the Pacific Division for most of the season and competitive against some of the better teams in the league. This year in 2015-16 the Canucks have struggled against virtually every area of the league. But struggle isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially for a youngster like McCann.
Sure, winning in your first year in the league can be exhilarating, but it can also be detrimental and ego-bloating. What McCann has experience is sort of like the perfect concoction of success, struggle and failure. He came flying out of the gate before going into a long slump and after playing lackluster hockey for a while McCann has shown extreme work ethic in recent games. One of the hardest working players on the ice for the Canucks.
So it’s as simple as this: McCann stays in Vancouver where he learns the ups and downs of an NHL season. He doesn’t need to find his mojo like Virtanen. He’s already got it and losing will only make him want it more.