Picking near the end of the first round of the NHL draft is about finding players who have the upside to be impact players. There aren't going to be any sure things - players who are labeled as sure things but drop that far are often the riskiest picks - so finding value involves identifying players who have the chance to contribute as top-six forwards or top-four defensemen, with surmountable weaknesses.
Sault St. Marie center Jared McCann could be one of those players.
The 6'1", 185 lb center started the year picking up a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, and then anchored the Greyhounds' top tough minutes forward line, while finishing second in team scoring with 62 points in 64 games. That may not seem like a lot, but McCann is truly a two-way force, a beast at both ends that plays power play and penalty kill, and has the trust of his coach in all situations.
Greyhounds Director of Player Personnel Victor Carneiro shared his thoughts on the team's highest rated draft-eligible prospect. "[McCann is a] strong, smart two-way center with an NHL-ready shot. [He] will likely need some AHL seasoning after his junior career to make the jump to the NHL as he needs to get bigger and stronger." Carneiro feels as though he will top out as a strong two-way second-line center, who can handle first-line duty when called upon.
More and more these days, GMs and coaches are coming to value players who can contribute offensively while facing the opposition's top players. Guys like Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar would never have been given the kind of respect they are today had they played 20 years ago. Those players - and even lesser known names like Ryan O'Reilly, Bryan Little, and Frans Nielsen give coaches the freedom to deploy their offensive stars in favorable situations and maximize output.
He is also being developed by one of the top young coaching staffs in the game, as Sheldon Keefe and his assistants, with the blessing of the team's youthful and innovative management corps, teach their players to play 21st century hockey, favoring controlled zone entries, breakouts with possession, and smart risk-taking.
|2010-2011||Elgin Middlesex Chi. Mn Mdgt AAA||AHMMPL||3||0||0||0||0|||||Playoffs||3||3||0||3||0|
|2011-2012||London Jr. Knights Gold Min Mdgt||OHL Cup||5||2||8||10||18||||
|London Jr. Knights Gold Min Mdgt||AHMMPL||29||33||26||59||22|||||Playoffs||11||9||11||20||4|
|London Jr. Knights Gold Min Mdgt||Midget||67||61||70||131||32||||
|London Jr. Knights Midget AAA||AHMPL||1||1||1||2||0||||
|2012-2013||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||64||21||23||44||35|||||Playoffs||1||0||0||0||0|
|Canada Ontario U17||WHC-17||5||1||2||3||2||||
|2013-2014||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHL||64||27||35||62||51|||||Playoffs||9||2||5||7||4|
|Canada U18||Hlinka Memorial||5||1||0||1||0||||
Player statistics powered by www.eliteprospects.com
Future Considerations, McKeen's, Hockey Prospect, Craig Button, and ESPN's Corey Pronman all agree on one thing, McCann has a laser. Carneiro calls his shot NHL-ready, and that's not an understatement.
Beyond that, opinions vary somewhat. Pronman lauds his plus hockey sense, which is an attribute I consider seminal to NHL success. FC loves his work ethic, playmaking, and skating, particularly his first-step acceleration.
There are some worries, however. Hockey Prospect, which ranks McCann the lowest of any publication, feels that he took a step back in a number of areas this year, including consistency, defensive play, and faceoff ability.
Hockey Prospect: 25
McKeen's Hockey: 12
Craig Button: 19
Corey Pronman: 19
Average Ranking: 17
It's most likely that the Canadiens would need to trade up to acquire McCann, something the organization hasn't done since 2010, but considering the drop off after arguably the top 20 or so prospects, it may be a move worth exploring.
McCann's character and work ethic along with his solid two-way play lead me to believe that he's a player Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, and the scouting staff would have interest in.
Whether it's McCann, or a scoring winger like Nikita Scherbak or Nikolai Goldobin, trading up may be the winning strategy.