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Maple Leafs trade target: Jared McCann

Let’s celebrate McCann’s birthday by naming him a Maple Leafs trade target.

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jared McCann is a player who Kyle Dubas probably values more than most, as he selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 OHL Draft. The Panthers, who carry plenty of depth at centre, made him a healthy scratch on several occasions in the middle of a heated playoff race. Dubas spoke highly of McCann in this 2014 interview with Rhys Jessop of Canucks Army, and while I will post a few quotes throughout this article, I highly recommend this piece to every Leafs fan. Florida originally acquired McCann from Vancouver in the 2016 offseason in exchange for Erik Gudbransson and a 5th round pick, a move that was believed to be made by Tom Rowe, rather than current General Manager Dale Tallon.

McCann posted 28 points in 68 games this season, despite spending minimal time on the powerplay. He spent limited time with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov, and Vincent Trocheck this year, and instead spent most of his time with Jamie McGinn, Maxim Mamin, Nick Bjugstad, Connor Brickley, Colton Sceviour, and Radim Vrbata. McCann is known as a two-way centre who can play on both special teams, but his career face-off percentage of 37% keeps his coaches from trusting him to take key defensive zone draws.

The question becomes: is McCann a favourite of Dale Tallon? Or will he be used as a moveable asset on a team with plenty of depth?

Florida Panthers Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau Aleksander Barkov Evgenii Dadonov
Jamie McGinn Vincent Trocheck Denis Malgin
Maxim Mamin Henrik Borgstrom Nick Bjugstad
Michael Haley Derek MacKenzie Colton Sceviour

In addition, Frank Vatrano should make the team after scoring 8 points in 16 games with the Panthers last season. Owen Tippett, the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, also carries a chance of making the team on the wing. With plenty of wingers who can slide over to centre, McCann is not exactly a lock to play every game next season if he does stay in Florida.

A Glimpse of McCann in Action

McCann is an above average skater, and average to slightly above average as a puck carrier. He displays a strong work ethic, and is starting to develop into a strong scoring threat on the rush:

McCann’s speed is on full display in the GIF below, as he scores the overtime winner against the Maple Leafs. Once again, he picks the corner above the goalie’s blocker:

McCann posted 81 points in just 56 games in his final season in the OHL, and he was clearly an asset in transition:

Once again, McCann attacks opposing defenders with plenty of speed, then weaves his way to the net to complete his self-made scoring chance:

McCann’s career shooting percentage is just 6.5%, which is particularly unusual given his above average shot. Goals like this lead me to believe that his low shooting percentage is mostly a fluke:

He did not benefit from a ton of powerplay time last year, but his shot was a major force at the OHL level, and could surely beat NHL goaltenders:

Once again, McCann shows off his finishing ability by firing a quick wrist shot into the top corner:

Quotes from Dubas (in 2015):

“Jared saw duty on the PP and PK both and was our best faceoff man, as well. On the PP Jared was used on his off wing to take advantage of his elite shot.”- Kyle Dubas, from this Canucks Army article.

“Jared’s controlled zone entry rate was 70% this season which was behind just Bryan Moore (77%), Tolchinsky (73%) and Watling (71%). Kyle Dubas, from this Canucks Army article.

“On the defensive side, Jared’s controlled zone entry against rate was 49%, 2nd on the team to Fritsch (48%). Collaborating the totals in both regards paints the picture of a terrific neutral zone player for you.”- Kyle Dubas, from this Canucks Army article.

Final Thoughts

McCann has played parts of three seasons in the NHL, and while it feels like he’s been around the league forever, he’s the same age as Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen, and two years younger than Andreas Johnsson. If he had spent his last three seasons on the Toronto Marlies, we would probably be raving about him as one of the team’s top prospects, but he’s spent the majority of his time in limited roles in the NHL. He scored at a 34 point pace this year despite a low shooting percentage, and this is without a ton of powerplay time.

Despite his young age, he’s been a positive player in terms of relative expected goal differential during his two year stint in Florida, and a slight positive in terms of shot attempt differential. While he does not typically receive tough minutes, he is playing behind two terrific players in Barkov and Trocheck, while mostly playing alongside traditional bottom six wingers.

McCann appears to have the speed, tenaciousness, and puck carrying ability to be a solid neutral zone player going forward. His scoring numbers should improve as his shooting percentage improves, and his shot could help a second powerplay unit. His reputation for being a solid two-way player is well-documented, and I see him as a potentially undervalued middle-six forward who can contribute in all situations and provide depth up the middle.

One area for improvement is in the faceoff circle, as he’s hovered around 39% during his time on the Panthers. However, this is an area where young players tend to struggle, and the Leafs could look to pair him with a right-handed line-mate to limit him to strong-side draws. While he is naturally a centre, he could also be used as a two-way winger in the mold of Reilly Smith. Becoming the next Smith might be close to the best case scenario, but it is worth pointing out that Smith only had 9 career NHL points when he was McCann’s age.

Florida is loaded up the middle with Barkov, Trocheck, Borgstrom, and Bjugstad in the top 9. Derek MacKenzie is a near-lock to be the team’s fourth line centre, and both Sceviour and Malgin can also shift up the middle when needed. Clearly, the Panthers appear to be more likely to move a centre compared to most organizations, and McCann could be seen as a leftover from Florida’s last regime, rather than a favourite of their current General Manager.

If McCann is available, look for Dubas to at least inquire about his former star centre. Players such as Connor Brown, Andreas Borgman, and Carl Grundstrom could be of interest to a team that is set at centre, right-defence, and in net. In addition, Matt Martin is set to make just $3.5 million over the remaining two years of his contract after his $1.5 million signing bonus is paid on July 1st. The Panthers like to have an enforcer in the lineup, so he could be a potential throw in, and an upgrade over Michael Haley.