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Catching The Torch: Allan McShane may be the Canadiens’ best CHL forward

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The Oshawa Generals player has a new linemate, and his chances are now starting to result in points.

Guelph Storm v Oshawa Generals Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Montreal Canadiens prospects playing at the Junior (OHL, QMJHL, WHL, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

The Oshawa Generals’ moves at the trade deadline strategically positioned them for a Memorial Cup run next year, with the possibility of causing a surprise in the playoffs this season. Their main move, acquiring star forward Philip Tomasino, will be key in this push for a title in 2020-21. That depends on him coming back to the ‘‘O’’ next season, but considering the depth of the Nashville Predators, it’s likely he will.

With their goal in mind, Oshawa’s management shipped out fourth-year Junior player Serron Noel to the Kitchener Rangers for picks. Allan McShane, contrary to his teammate, stayed put.

The organization keeping McShane could mean that the Habs prospect represents a key part of a team looking to still battle from now until the end of their season. He was worth keeping, even if he turns pro before next year’s run. The second option is that the Generals expect an over-age season out of one of their most talented forwards, which would help bolster their roster in 2020-21. Maybe the Generals know something we don’t yet about the future of McShane with the Montreal Canadiens.

Of course, it could also be nothing of this sort. The organization could simply be splitting their best troops over different campaigns, improving their odds at a deep run by remaining competitive this season as well.

One way or another, the only thing McShane can do in this second half of the season is be a dominant player for his team. That’s what will get him the professional contract, from the Canadiens or another team.

He was in a bit of a cold streak in the first half of the season — and so was Noel. The two couldn’t manage to pull themselves out of their little slump. But now, the high-flying Tomasino carries a wind of fresh air for McShane. The new addition for the Generals is a much more shifty, skilled, and positionally sound forward, supporting the play and making better decisions on the ice. Chemistry with McShane should come more easily.

For the purpose of creating a dominant top line, the coaching staff moved McShane to the flank of Tomasino on Saturday. The Habs forward can play on the wing just as well as centre, so it’s really not a problem for him.

Against the Kingston Frontenacs, McShane picked up three points, but was at the origin of many other scoring chances that weren’t converted — a recurring theme for him this season, even with the addition of a better supporting cast.

Here’s a breakdown of a few sequences from the game. McShane wears #61 in red and black.

McShane is more active in the offensive zone than he was a couple of seasons ago. Against the Frontenacs, when faced with defensive pressure, he didn’t stop to receive a pass. He moved with the puck to draw defenders in and open space for others. He also always preemptively identified passing options, and was then able to find teammates in an instant after receiving the puck or stealing it from opponents.

When passes to dangerous areas weren’t open, he didn’t force them. He simply changed the point of attack, moving the puck back to a teammate on the periphery, keeping it in possession of his team before repositioning to support the next play.

Deception is ingrained in McShane’s playmaking. On Saturday, he rarely gave any hint to the defence as to where he intended to send the puck. He looked off his target or turned toward a teammate he wasn’t passing to. The tricks he played on defenders with the position of his head and body often had his opponents overcommitting to shutting down the wrong play. They created holes in the coverage that teammates could freely exploit.

Far and away the most impressive plays McShane made against Kingston was on the penalty kill. He forechecked an opposing defenceman who bobbled the puck. The forward pokechecked it loose and jumped ahead of the opponent to steal it. Then came time to establish possession. McShane lowered himself, extended his knee in front of the defenceman, winning inside positioning, and used his free arm to further shield the puck. He pushed against the opposing body with that same arm to separate himself, then strode forward and went forehand-backhand on the goalie before missing the top of the net with his shot.

McShane isn’t the biggest forward, but his newfound strength and improved puck-protection mechanics make him a dangerous force on the boards of the OHL. He isn’t fazed by back-pressure and can create offence in close quarters better than any other Habs prospect in Junior hockey.

Again, it’s all in the details, like the way he opens up his feet in a 10-and-2 position, and pushes with his back foot on the walls to prevent defenders from pinning him. With this manoeuvre, he can also kick the puck free to a teammate.

This a nothing sequence, but most other players would have been stuck expending energy battling the two or three defenders pressuring their back for long seconds.

Even if McShane has flaws — the primary one being explosiveness — and even if he isn’t producing as many points as Cam Hillis in his fourth year in Junior, his game still features a ton of little elements that will bring him success at the professional level.

McShane’s combination of high awareness, processing speed, and skill, added to a developing physical side, could make him a great help to the Laval Rocket in the next couple of years. He could be one of those prized late bloomers. If he can work on his skating form and absorb the coaching of Joël Bouchard, he could realistically unlock his full potential.

CHL Weekly performances

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 2 0 1 1
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 1 2 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 0 2 2
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 0 1 1
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 2 0 0 0
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 3 1 1 2
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips Injured
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4 0 1 1

CHL Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 55 31 40 71
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 43 19 31 50
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 61 23 58 81
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 62 23 44 67
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 60 6 25 31
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 60 15 59 74
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 37 5 20 25
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 36 0 6 6

NCAA/USHL Weekly performances

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 2 0 3 3
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern Injured
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 2 1 1 2

NCAA Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 28 2 5 7
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 36 19 17 36
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 35 5 25 30
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 21 3 7 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 33 3 18 21
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 45 17 25 42