Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images
Be it center or wing, Jared McCann is an important player for the Penguins
Our annual, 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
2020 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Radim Zohorna
#24: Judd Caulfield
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Jan Drozg
#21: Sam Miletic
#20: Lukas Svejkovsky
#19: Jonathan Gruden
#18: Niclas Almari
#17: Clayton Phillips
#16: Jordy Bellerive
#15: Anthony Angello
#14: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#13: Calle Clang
#12: Joel Blomqvist
#11: Valtteri Puustinen
#10: Josh Maniscalco
#9: Cam Lee
#8: Drew O’Connor
#7: Nathan Legare
#6: Pierre-Olivier Joseph
#5: Samuel Poulin
#4: Jared McCann, LW/C
2019 Ranking: #3
Age: 24 (May 31, 1996)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 185 pounds
Acquired Via: trade with Florida, February 2019
Jared McCann has been a player of ups and downs, highs and lows. He was a first round pick, and made the NHL at a very early age; yet he’s also on his third different NHL team by age 24. He’s scored 35 points in each of the past two seasons, yet he’s also endured a long goal-less drought (the last 25 games of his 2019-20 season). As you can see in his highlights above, he has good poise with the puck and his release is quick. His wrister is also good enough to shoot for corners and he has the power to beat NHL goalies from distance.
Also in 98 career NHL games with the Penguins, McCann has amassed a sneakily good overall 52 points. That includes 43 even strength points, where he does the bulk of his work and pretty much averaged a point-every-other-game in that regard. He’s also Gretz pointed out some nice traits for us here when McCann recently re-signed a two-year contract that will carry a $2.94 million annual average value (cap hit).
McCann has the versatility to play up and down the lineup and in a variety of positions (first-line wing, third-line center) and he has the talent to be a really productive player, something he has shown at various times since arriving midway through the 2018-19 season. Has he been streaky at times? You bet he has been, but show me a player that is not streaky when it comes to their goal-scoring. The bottom line is he has scored at a 20-goal, 45-50 point pace per 82 games and is not a total zero defensively. That is a good player, and one probably worth keeping around. I don’t know if he is the ideal third-line center fit, but I also do not want to let a four-game sampling in a strange playoff year take on too much weight.
Finding the right role for McCann has been a challenge that the Penguins haven’t totally seemed to manage just quite yet. Is he best positioned as a wing or a center? A strong focal point of a third line or a supporting member of a scoring line?
Injuries throughout the lineup have meant that McCann — who has proven to be a durable player — has had the opportunities to do a bit of everything in a variety of roles. The good news is McCann is versatile enough to do a little bit of everything and acquit himself well in any role asked. And, on perhaps flip side of the coin, that also means that he’s been untethered and left without a clear or obvious role.
Pittsburgh’s off-season moves pointed to what they saw as up next for McCann. Patric Hornqvist, previously an alpha personality and a third line staple is gone. In are Evan Rodrigues and Mark Jankowski — the latter being tabbed as McCann’s center.
Now, with a role seemingly set and defined, it will be up to McCann to take the next step. The potential certainly looks there, McCann has scored a total of 70 total points in the last two seasons (tied with Nick Bonino and Alex Kerfoot, two other candidates, real or imagined. to potentially play on the Pens’ third line). That ranks 154th in forwards in points over the last two years. Divvy up 154 scorers by 31 teams and that nets to being about the fifth best player on a team, which feels about right and maybe even a surprise for McCann. He’s done well to produce points over a fairly long period, even if it hasn’t always felt consistent.
As McCann ages out of this Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25, he hasn’t put to rest all the questions surrounding his career track. He has proven over the past few seasons that he is an NHL caliber player who skates well and can shoot the puck. He can play some center, and play wing. He’s also been streaky and prone to cold stretches.
McCann already has 310 NHL games under his belt, well over 100 more than anyone else on this year’s T25U25. Yet is also is fair to say McCann still has far to go and some settling into a role to really determine the magnitude of success his NHL career may have. McCann probably has the speed and hands, if not the consistency, to personally be best served as a top-six winger. And he’s probably only one injury to any member of the Pens’ top players to being plugged back into that role, either as a center or a wing. That versatility provides value, even if it hasn’t resulted in a steady or certain usage.
Where he goes from here will be interesting to watch and important for the team, McCann is slotted in to start the year as unquestionably Pittsburgh’s seventh most important forward who in a perfect year would be again going for about a 20 goal and 35-40 point season as he graduates fully from young player into what should be his NHL prime.