Sure, you might have thought, Jared McCann was bouncing off the walls, full of energy and in awe of his star teammates when he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that will wear off. He’ll settle down some.
The 22-year-old forward is still coffee personified.
“That’s just the way I am. I feel like that’s just the type of person I am,” McCann said Thursday.
“I feel like it’s a good thing. I’ve been on teams where we’ve had guys who were more quiet. That’s just the way they are. It doesn’t affect their play. Each guy’s different. Some guys like to be calm before a game, but I like to ramp it up a bit. The guys know that I’m ready to go.”
It’s not just idle energy or frenetic chaos. McCann has channeled it noticeably well. He has 11 goals, 16 points in 27 games since the Penguins acquired him and Nick Bjugstad from the Florida Panthers for forwards Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan and draft picks.
“He’s got good energy on the ice,” Bjugstad said. “He definitely is an exciting player to watch, even as a teammate. He makes things happen. He’s just got a lot of high-level skill. Energy, too. He’s a young buck, so he can bring those legs. And he can put it all together like he has. That’s the big thing.”
McCann has worked at center and wing on multiple lines, and he has become a valuable penalty killer – and not just because he has three shorthanded goals. For a while, he skated alongside Sidney Crosby on the top line.
He has settled in – if not settled down — lately as the second-line left winger.
“I’ll be honest,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When we first got him, we envisioned Jared playing that third-line center and Nick potentially playing on the wing in a top-six capacity. It’s worked out to this point where the roles have been reversed. But they both embraced it and have done extremely well at it. I think they’re both capable at either one. It just gives us more versatility having those two guys as part of our roster.”
Winger, center, Sullivan’s valet, Crosby’s caddie – McCann doesn’t seem to mind.
“Whatever role they seek from me, I’m just going to try to do it to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunity here, and I feel like I’ve really taken advantage of it.”
McCann has career highs in goals and points this season. His next goal, if it comes in the five remaining regular-season games, will give him a nice, round 20.
“It would be nice,” he said. “I’m not going to follow it, though. It’s not something I focus on that much. It would be nice to get 20 goals, to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, for sure.”
The Penguins, of course, wouldn’t mind that.
“We encouraged him to shoot the puck,” Sullivan said. “The one thing about Jared on the wing is we think can leverage his speed a little bit more. If our centericemen can get him the puck out on the wing with some speed, he can challenge defensemen. He might get some separation to shoot the puck – and we try to encourage him to shoot the puck. He’s shown a capacity to score.
“It’s worked out to this point. Moving forward we’ll see how it goes. We really like him on the wing. We like Nick in the middle. He’s embraced that role and played very well in that third-line center role, which is a critical position for us.”
McCann has never played in an NHL playoff game. In fact, he has not played in any postseason game as a pro.
Just imagine what his energy and some timely points might do to help support the Penguins’ major players in the playoffs. Perhaps he could even help give the team a chance to still be playing on his 23rd birthday May 31.
Bjugstad said McCann was a bundle of energy with Florida, too, and now it’s infusing the Penguins locker room. But it works the other way, too – the Penguins’ winning edge is rubbing off on the former Panthers.
“I think it’s contagious just since we came in here as new guys, just seeing how these guys practice, how they play, the mentality they have,” Bjugstad said. “If you’ve won the way they have, they’re doing something right. I think that’s more contagious on us than anything.”
McCann and Bjugstad carpool to practices and games, but that contagious energy has its limits when they are riding together.
“On the way here I’m trying to get him onto the techno train, the EDM train, but I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it very much,” McCann said of his music choice, which isn’t overly surprising given his personality.