3 Reasons the Kraken Will Take McCann From the Maple Leafs

Neither general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs Kyle Dubas nor the Seattle Kraken’s general manager Ron Francis works in a vacuum. It would be naive to think these two organizational executives don’t speak with each other – regularly. 

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Specifically, although we can’t know for sure, there’s no doubt in my mind that Dubas, like every other NHL general manager, has been in talks with Francis, trying to work out who Seattle would want from the Maple Leafs’ roster. I think that would be especially true given that Francis had to seek Dubas’ permission to speak with his new Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. 

What Can We Guess By the Maple Leafs Protection List?

Although one can never know for certain, we can guess that Dubas knew or believed that Francis and Hakstol were interested in Justin Holl as a possible draft choice for the Kraken’s roster. That’s why the Maple Leafs went the route of protecting eight skaters instead of the more typical route of protecting seven forwards and three defensemen. 

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s also quite obvious that both the Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins knew that Francis and Hakstol were after both Jaren McCann and Alex Kerfoot. That’s why the Maple Leafs made the deal for McCann. Because Seattle can only draft a single player off the roster, it became an either/or situation. 

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If the Kraken choose McCann, that leaves the Maple Leafs with Kerfoot, resulting in the Leafs losing prospect Filip Hallander and an upcoming seventh-round draft choice, without giving up a roster player. Or, if the Kraken choose Kerfoot, the team ends up with McCann as a replacement for Kerfoot. Either way it is a win for the Maple Leafs. 

Jared McCann or Alex Kerfoot: Who’s Better?

As Maple Leafs fans wait to see which player Seattle will choose from the Maple Leafs’ roster, the questions that interested us in this post is “Who’s the better player? Which of these two players is the Kraken most likely to choose?” Here I’m again collaborating with long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith to try to address those questions. 

The Tale of the Tape

Kerfoot was drafted in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils. He’ll be 27 years old within the next month and is a 5-foot-10 and 175-pound versatile forward who can play both at center and on the wing. His salary-cap hit will be $3.5 million for two more seasons. 

Jared McCann Pittsburgh Penguins
Jared McCann, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

McCann was a first-round draft choice (24th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft of the Vancouver Canucks. He just turned 25 in May and is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. His salary-cap hit will be $2.94 million for another season. He too is a versatile forward who, like Kerfoot, can play both at center and on the wing.

Looking Old School, Who’s the Better Player?

In terms of games played, goals, points, plus-minus, hits, and shot blocks, here’s how the two players compare.

PlayerGames PlayedGoalsPointsPlus/MinusHitsShot Blocks

Breaking these numbers down per game, we can see the following:

PlayerGames PlayedGoals Per GamePoints Per GameHits Per GameShot Blocks Per Game

Old-School Comparisons 

The two players are virtually tied for goals per game. Kerfoot has a slight advantage in points and blocked shots. McCann has almost twice the hits per game that Kerfoot has. McCann has a better plus-minus.

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Special Teams

If we look at special teams, Kerfoot was used on the power-play a lot four seasons ago when he played for the Colorado Avalanche, but he’s seen his power-play time dwindle during his time with the Maple Leafs. McCann has seen his power-play time increase over the past two seasons. However, neither is dominant on the power play.

On the penalty kill, McCann saw his penalty-time peak at a little over a minute per game during the 2018-19 season; however, he wasn’t used at all on the penalty kill by the Penguins last season. Prior to the 2020-21 season, Kerfoot wasn’t on the penalty-kill unit but averaged a minute and a half on the penalty kill this past season. It’s become a strong part of his game.

Toronto Maple Leafs Ilya Mikheyev Alexander Kerfoot Morgan Rielly Rasmus Sandin
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev, centre Alexander Kerfoot, defenceman Morgan Rielly and defenceman Rasmus Sandin celebrate a goal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

Our old-school findings suggest that very little separates these two players’ on-ice contributions to their teams. The main difference between the two appears to be that McCann is bigger and the more physical of the two. 

New-School Comparisons (Advanced Statistics or Analytics)

Let us make two notes about our advanced statistical analysis. First, we used Hockey-reference.com and Naturalstattrick.com. Second, for anyone unfamiliar with advanced statistics, when reading the “For Percentages (For%)”,  For% is the percentage of events that happen for the player’s team when that player is on the ice. For example, if a player’s % in shots is 50%, it means that, while that player is on the ice, half the shots taken are by his team. Anything above 50% represents a positive impact. Anything below 50% represents a negative impact. The higher above 50%, the greater that player’s contribution to the team.

Headings Used

The categories used for this analysis include Corsi For % (CF%), Shots For % (SF%), Scoring Chances For% (SCF%), High Danger Chances For% (HDCF%), Goals For% (GF%), Expected Goals For% (xGF%)

PlayerCorsi For%Shots For%Scoring Chances
High Danger
Chances For% 
Goals For%Expected Goals

If we average Corsi For % (Shot Attempts), Shots for %, and Scoring Chances For %, the two players are in a virtual tie, with Kerfoot at 50.0% and McCann at 49.9%. Interestingly, both are on the negative side for High Danger Chances. McCann is higher than Kerfoot in the category actual Goals For, but lower than Kerfoot in Expected Goals For.

Again, our analysis suggests there’s not much difference between these two players in performance, any way you look at the players – either using more traditional comparisons or when using analytics. 

Jared McCann Will Be the Kraken’s Choice for Three Reasons

Our analysis suggests that both players are strong contributors to their team’s success. Both our analyses – old- and new-school – also suggest just how close the two players are in their overall NHL career performance. 

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There have been differences in their deployment over the past few seasons, but that difference can probably be attributed to the roster of the teams they’ve played for. For example, Kerfoot isn’t likely to get much power-play time on the Maple Leafs, although if he were chosen by the Kraken he might assume a more prominent power-play role. Were McCann to remain on the Maple Leafs’ roster, his power-play time might be cut significantly.

Alexander Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Our analysis suggests that the Kraken will likely choose McCann over Kerfoot, but not because one is better on the ice than the other. The three advantages McCann has over Kerfoot can all be shown in the tale of the tape. McCann is younger, he’s bigger, and he has a lower salary-cap hit. It seems logical he’ll be the Kraken’s choice.

The upside for the Maple Leafs is that, whoever the Kraken choose, the Maple Leafs will be left with a pretty good hockey player. We think that that player will be Alex Kerfoot; unless, of course, the Maple Leafs and the Kraken already have a deal in place where Seattle choses Kerfoot. That we don’t know yet, but soon will.