When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers on Feb. 1, few predicted his impact would extend to winger beside Sidney Crosby. The 2014 24th overall selection by the Vancouver Canucks had yet to reach his perceived potential in his first four seasons in the NHL.
He didn’t emerge as an offensive threat with Vancouver or Florida, where he traded for fellow teammate Erik Gudbranson in 2016. McCann, 22, playing for his third NHL team but he seems to have finally found a home just 20 games into his Penguins career.
Since joining the Penguins, McCann has provided youth, energy, and goal scoring to the Penguins lineup. He is noticeable on the ice and carries himself as a player who is excitable and energetic. The biggest impression a Penguins fan get from McCann, however, is he is just happy to be here.
McCann scored twice in a 4-2 win against the surging Boston Bruins, Sunday night. Although both goals played a huge role in the victory, it was McCann’s first tally that gathers significant attention. The play started with Teddy Blueger feathering a pass between two Boston defenders to spring McCann on a shorthanded breakaway. McCann bore down on Boston goaltender Jaroslav Halak and deked to his right finishing with a backhand into the net. The goal was McCann’s third shorthanded goal of the year and words can’t convey how smooth it looked.
McCann looked stoked after the huge goal, but in post-game, he was quick to pass it off as just his personality and mentioned he is happy to have a chance to play.
“I’m pretty excited after every goal,” laughed McCann. “Im just humbled at the opportunity I’ve been given here and im just trying to play hard.”
McCann scored two more points Tuesday night against Washington including the game-changing pickpocket of Evgeny Kuznetzov and perfect pass to Jake Guentzel for the Penguins first goal. The play sparked a three-goal rally in 1:48.
In 20 games with the Penguins, McCann has nine goals and 13 points. He’s been deployed on the power play and the penalty kill. The two-score performance Sunday helped McCann eclipse his career-high point total. Overall, he ha 31 points (17g, 14a) this season, which surpassed the 28 points he registered in 65 games with Florida, last season.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has empowered McCann with the opportunity to be a significant part of the team. Sullivan thinks the early success of McCann and teammate Nick Bjugstad, acquired in the same trade, is rooted in a positive attitude. Sullivan also remarks it is nice to have players that “buy in” to a team’s culture.
“They are two real good players and they have embraced their roles that we have put them in.” said Sullivan after Sunday’s game. ” When guys bring a certain level of enthusiasm and they embrace the challenge, I think that is where it start with that attitude of wanting to make a difference and wanting to help this team win games. Both these guys are excited to be Penguins.”
After starting his career with the Penguins on the third-line, McCann has recently seized a larger role and is playing with Crosby more frequently. As McCann told PHN on Tuesday morning, he’s having a lot of fun in his first playoff chase.
“It feels good and just shows that he [Sullivan] has confidence in me,” said McCann, Sunday. ” Im just trying to play good for the guys when im out [on the ice.]”
McCann has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last eight games since he was elevated to the top line.