There was a player there, a good one, humble and soft-spoken, swiftly ripening into superstar status.
In 2011-12, as a 16-year-old with the London Jr. Knights minor midget program, Jared McCann was officially discovered as one of the most electric players in southern Ontario: 67 games, 61 goals, 131 points.
“His dominance at that level really appealed to us,” Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds general manager Kyle Dubas said. “We felt he was the best fit to play the style our team sought to employ.”
And the rest, they say, is history. By way of the fourth pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, McCann was now a Hound – soon, a Canuck.
The quick resolution new GM Jim Benning sought in dealing Ryan Kesler was a nifty piece of business. Immediate help came in the form of Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa – fine acquisitions, indeed, but the real win? That 24th pick, cunningly used on McCann, one of the best and most underrated players in the draft, once again.
In 64 games last season, the 18-year-old product of Stratford, Ont., recorded 27 goals and 62 points – an 18-point improvement over his rookie campaign a year prior.
Beyond the traditional offensive boxcars, of which he was dominant, McCann was busy cementing his already sparkling status as one of the league’s most complete top-line centres, flourishing in the competitive throngs of puck possession.
Spoiler: he’s one of the best.
“Jared and Tyler Gaudet [Arizona] shared the proverbial top-six centre role. They were both used in all situations and were not sheltered as it pertained to zone starts or match-ups,” Dubas said.
In the OHL—ditto that for all branches of the Canadian Hockey League—advanced data collection is only now becoming a more widely accepted method of player evaluation. And even then, it’s up to the teams to make their mark, as publicly consumable information is egregiously halted at points, plus/minus and penalty minutes.
There’s little else to work with, which is exactly why Dubas and the Greyhounds have quickly become one of the progressive teams in the sport.
Playing head-to-head against the opposition’s best players, McCann has had all sorts of success, his fancies all the rage. According to CanucksArmy.com and ExtraSkater.com, the six-foot, 174-pound pivot delivered a Corsi percentage of 57.9 (+259 outright, behind only defencemen Darnell Nurse and Kyle Jenkins), a goals-for percentage of 63.6, and equally as strong numbers in just about every other category.
This is as complete a player as there is on the cusp of prime-time duty. With a little seasoning, of course.
“With regards to all of those categories, Jared was at or near the top of our team,” Dubas said. “The OHL does not track game data or time on ice like the NHL, and we do not have the budget to manually track each game, so it is impossible to be certain about how Jared stacks up against other OHL centres – but in small samples and in subjective analysis, he has stacked up very well, which bodes well for his continued evolution into one of the premiere centres in the league this season.”
With Gaudet graduating to the professional ranks with the Coyotes organization next season, McCann will have even more responsibility thrust upon him when camp kicks off – assuming he doesn’t earn a surprise spot on Benning’s revamped Canucks roster.
“I know Jared can become a top-six centre in the NHL,” Dubas said. “His ability and what the underlying numbers show should be extremely valuable, so long as he continues to develop and maximize his potential.
“On the surface it appears that he’ll have an excellent opportunity with the Canucks, for sure. Things are always evolving with NHL clubs, though, and because it’s a great opportunity now does not mean that it will be easy. He will have to put in the work needed to ensure he can have an impact with the Canucks at 19, 20 or 21. Jared weighed between 170 and 180 pounds last season, so he’ll have to continue to physically mature to ensure he’s ready for the NHL.”
“With my role this season, I didn’t have to worry too much about the offensive side because I had so many defensive responsibilities,” McCann said. “That being said, I still have a lot more to give, to learn and grow into. I’m excited for the challenge.”