Seattle Kraken 33-goal man Jared McCann didn’t recover from some devastating injury or bad habit, he recovered from the early shock of finding out about the realities of the hockey business.
The former 2014 1st-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, 24th overall, figured he’d be residing in the Lower Mainland for the long haul, gleefully developing as a scoring prospect for a Canadian based NHL club.
Instead, on May 25th, 2016, just a week shy of his 20th birthday, the affable Stratford, Ontario native had the rug pulled out from under him, traded by Canucks GM Jim Benning to the Florida Panthers as part of a deal for defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
“I was very happy to be drafted by a Canadian team and to be able to play my first year in the NHL as a member the Canucks,” McCann remembered, “but I feel like l got let go a little bit too early in my career and it definitely mentally, it affected me, and I was kind of thinking about, everyday, kind of like what I did wrong and what what I could do better?
Apparently nine goals and nine assists as a 19-year-old wasn’t enough for Canucks management. Desperation or some level of panic may have played a part in it. The 2nd-year GM was likely trying to stop the franchise’s slide away from the playoffs, following an extended run of success under his predecessors that included a Stanley Cup Final visit in 2011.
Haste makes waste, not just for the franchise that’s only seen the playoffs twice since 2014, but also for the young prospect that wondered what the hell was going on.
“I was down on myself, you know, I just kept thinking like, why did they pass up on me?” McCann recalls. “Why did they let me go so early, but you know, it’s just the business side of the game, right? There’s cap situations, there’s GM’s that want to make trades, stuff like that. So it’s just how it is, it’s just a part of it.”
Recovery And Kraken Opportunity
Ultimately for McCann it was simply an early lesson in the business of the game. Players can sometimes be the victims of whims, particularly early in their careers when they’re unknown entities. It’s all a part of ongoing speculation.
After two-and-a-half seasons with an unstable Panthers organization, including 42 games in the American Hockey League, McCann was moved again in February of 2019 to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he played bottom-six minutes for a team that was bounced in the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive seasons. It was another franchise in transition after winning Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Oddly enough, it was a current Vancouver Canucks executive, then Penguins GM Jim Rutherford who brought him in. Six months after Rutherford stepped aside, new Pittsburgh manager Ron Hextall moved McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2021 in what amounted to Kraken expansion draft gymnastics.
Visually, the Seattle Kraken appear to have taken McCann with their 27th selection, although the order meant nothing. Each NHL team, other than the four-year-old Vegas Golden Knights, were giving up one player. The picks were listed alphabetically by team location. The Canucks gave up prospect Kole Lind.
Will Borgen (Buffalo Sabres), Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes), Joonas Donskoi (Colorado Avalanche), Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas Stars), Adam Larsson (Edmonton Oilers), Chris Driedger (Florida Panthers), Carson Soucy (Minnesota Wild), Cale Fleury (Montreal Canadiens), Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders), Joey Daccord (Ottawa Senators), Carsen Twarynsky (Philadelphia Flyers), Brandon Tanev (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alex True (San Jose Sharks), Vince Dunn (St. Louis Blues), Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay Lightning), McCann (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Lind (Vancouver Canucks) all remain with the Kraken organization, 12 of them with the big club.
“I just tried to keep going,” McCann told us on Tuesday. “Just tried to keep grinding, control what I can control. You can’t control ice time, you can’t control anything like that. Right? You can just control your effort every single game, and your focus, I just tried to do that and it’s been working out. Very, very fortunate to be able to be with a team that gave me an opportunity to be in the top six role and it’s been working for me.”
Working to the tune of 27 goals last season and on pace for 40-plus this time around. McCann is presently the leading point getter on the team; a Kraken club that’s nine points ahead of the closest non-playoff team.
A far cry from the Canucks emotions in the spring of 2016.
“I was a little bit shocked obviously. I stayed in Vancouver and the Canucks wanted me to stay there and train and skate and stuff, so I did, and a couple weeks into the summer I got moved. So it was definitely different, a different time.”