The Vancouver Canucks have too many centres on their roster and rookie Jared McCann could be the odd one out. Yet, he should stay with the club.
Jared McCann was one of the Vancouver Canucks’ biggest surprises heading into the 2015-16 season. Along with fellow rookies Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton, McCann made the team out of training camp and stayed in the NHL for the entire season. However, he might be the odd one out for 2016-17.
If — and this is a big, important “if” — the Canucks’ centres manage to stay healthy next season, the depth chart will look like the following.
Henrik Sedin is the No. 1 no matter what. If both are healthy, Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat fight for the No. 2 slot. Then there is Markus Granlund who was recently acquired from the Calgary Flames and is more of a bottom-six guy than McCann.
If the Canucks choose to re-sign Linden Vey, head coach Willie Desjardins might actually put him ahead of McCann as well. We are all hoping he won’t, but you never know.
Now, even if one or even two of Sutter, Granlund, Vey and McCann move to the wing, it looks like McCann will not get a big role next season either.
That is why many fans suggested trading McCann for someone who would have a better chance of cracking the roster next season and has similar potential. McCann has first-line potential, so there should be enough clubs interested in him, right?
I personally suggested it was time to say goodbye to McCann and trade him away, potentially to the Tampa Bay Lightning for left winger Jonathan Drouin. Others suggested to package him with another asset and trade him to the Minnesota Wild for Matthew Dumba.
But, keeping McCann would probably not be a bad idea either.
Trading prospects and rookies is never easy. If you trade for a 27-year-old veteran, you know what you are getting. If you trade for a rookie or young NHL player, you never know what they will turn into.
What if the Canucks trade McCann for Drouin and McCann turns into an elite two-way centre who plays on Tampa’s first line while Drouin is nothing more than a middle-six scorer for the Canucks?
What if Vancouver trades McCann for Dumba and McCann turns into that elite player while Dumba is just a bottom-pairing D-man?
Obviously, Drouin seems to be the player who is more likely to reach his elite ceiling. Dumba almost looks like more than a third-pairing player already. But, we don’t know what they will eventually become.
Developing McCann in Utica
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McCann is a great example for a player who suffers from the NHL’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League. As a 19-year-old, McCann is ineligible to play in the professional minor leagues. The Canucks did not want to return him to juniors, so he played fourth-line NHL minutes instead.
Next season, however, that will change. McCann will be eligible to play for the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. There, he can be a leader and play first-line and power-play minutes.
Playing in Utica would be the best thing for McCann’s development. He can play the minutes he needs, and if a centre gets injured up in Vancouver, he can be the first one to be called up.
After a season or even two of seasoning with the Comets, the Canucks will have a better idea of what McCann is, can be, should be, and will be.
Do they still want to trade him? They still can.
Do they still want to keep him? They can be glad they still have him.
Trading players like Hunter Shinkaruk or Jared McCann turn out well, but it is always associated with great risk.
At this point, keeping McCann might be the best thing to do.