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2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: Jack McBain’s stick skills are top-end, but his skating may hold him back

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An inefficient skating stride may prevent the Toronto native from reaching his potential.

Image credit: SportsLogos.net

With plans to play in the NCAA, Jack McBain opted to keep his collegiate eligibility open by forgoing the Canadian Hockey League, despite being the 20th overall pick by the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Instead he went the Junior A route, playing for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, to prepare for the eventual move to Boston College that he is slated to make this fall.

He finished just shy of a point-per-game pace in his rookie reason, with 13 goals and 28 assists in 42 games. That was good for fourth on his team behind players one to three years his senior, and first in assists.

He followed that up in 2017-18 by increasing both his goal and assist totals, once again at the top of the list in the latter.

Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario
Date of birth: January 6, 2000
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 196 lbs.
Team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)

Image credit: EliteProspects

His hand skills are responsible for his offensive talent. He can get a shot off quickly, though he does have difficulty elevating the puck. Fortunately for him, he’s usually worked his way into a postion close to the net when the puck finds his stick, giving goaltenders little chance to get set.

He has good control with his stick, and gets a lot on his passes, while also having the confidence to put pucks through traffic in an attempt to find a teammate. Using his long reach, he can quickly move the puck several feet to create a new lane, and it makes it difficult for those tasked with covering him to prevent him from making a play. He is a tricky puck-handler, using his long arms to keep the puck away from defenders, and that has allowed him to excel at zone entries.

Playing keep-away is important to his game because his feet aren’t nearly as speedy. He has an upright stance while skating, and with his 6’3” frame, that doesn’t give him much manouevrability. Despite that height, he doesn’t have a long stride, and his technique is inefficient on the whole.

At times, when one of his stick-handles through the neutral zone results in a turnover, he doesn’t display the determination necessary to recover the puck back, slow to transition to a defensive mindset, which puts added pressure on his defencemen to thwart the counter-attack. On the flip side, his active stick can result in takeaways at centre ice as well, allowing him to head the other way with fewer defenders to go around.

In the defensive zone, he displays good instincts, getting himself into a proper position and directing teammates to do the same. Once there, however, he often fails to keep track of the movements of the opposition skaters, and can have players sneak behind him uncontested on their way to the net.

He had a high penalty-minute total this season; third-highest on his team. Along with three 10-minute misconducts, there were a lot of stick infractions on his record in 2017-18. Given the difficulty he has with his skating, that may be a concerning trend.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Future Considerations: #54
The Hockey News: #60
NHL Central Scouting: #35 (North American skaters)

Thoughts

There are some quality aspects to McBain’s game, but also several areas that need to see improvement if he is to become an effective professional player. Not the least of those is his skating, and given how the NHL is transitioning to a speed and skill game, that’s a key weakness in what he has to offer.

The offensive abilities are enticing, and a great base to develop from. Those will only get better as he matures. Gaining a more efficient stride would do wonders for his transition game and allow him to be even better in the offensive zone.

There’s no guarantee that his skating will improve to a level that can see him excel in the NHL. And that’s not the only area he needs to see improvement in to become a top prospect in an organization. In a draft as deep as 2018’s, there are many players projected to go in the second round who have just one area that needs to be addressed for them to put everything together.

For the Montreal Canadiens, there will be plenty of options to choose from with their five picks from 35 to 66, including a good amount of quality centremen. Even with the hand skills he possesses, it’s difficult to see how Jack McBain ranks within that range.