Player: Jared McCann
Born: May 31, 1996 (25 years old)
Weight: 187 lbs.
Birthplace: Stratford, Ontario, Canada
Draft: 2014, Vancouver Canucks, 1st Round, 24th overall
2020-21 Statistics: 43 games played — 14 goals, 18 assists, 32 points
Contract Status: Signed for 2021-22 with a $2.94 million cap hit, scheduled to be a restricted free agent next summer in 2022
Offensively, McCann didn’t produce much, recording no goals and only one assist in six games in the loss to the Islanders. However, McCann also led Pittsburgh with a 64.9% Corsi For% in the series. He was on ice for three 5v5 goals for and two 5v5 goals against, and his 1.61 GA ranked second best among forwards and defensemen (behind Frederick Gaudreau’s 0.0).
Story of the season
McCann started out hitting the ground running in 2020-21 — in the second game of the season he injured Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier and knocked him out for a few weeks with a clean hit and also threw an unclean elbow at Travis Sanheim that got McCann fined.
McCann was hurt on February 6th in a game against the Islanders, forcing him out of the lineup for three weeks. He would come back strong, scoring 3G+2A in five games, before getting injured again on March 7th and missing 13 days. When McCann returned, Evgeni Malkin was out with a knee injury and McCann found himself elevated to the team’s top power play.
That worked out wonderfully, with McCann scoring six PPG through the rest of the season (ranking 3rd in the NHL for PPG from 3/20 - end of season).
McCann’s season also shifted later when the team acquired Jeff Carter. McCann shifted back to the wing and quickly became the combined-at-hip option for Mike Sullivan to use with Carter. It was a great pairing, with Carter providing a ton of goals down the stretch and playing well off McCann.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes
Corsi For%: 54.7% (1st)
Goals For%: 69.2% (3rd)
xGF%: 54.5% (2nd)
Scoring Chance %: 56.2% (2nd)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 54.5% (2nd)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 13.6% (2nd)
On-ice save%: .931% (2nd)
Goals/60: 0.72 (10th)
Assist/60: 1.69 (4th)
Points/60: 2.4 (4th)
—While others like Zach Aston-Reese are cult heroes in the internet community for excellent advanced stats, Jared McCann really ought to get a lot of attention and kudos for tipping the ice in the Penguins’ favor (recall again his 1st in CF% in playoffs as well). The Pens’ shot well with McCann on the ice — in no small part to the end-of-season boost provided by Carter, but that was a result of the chances piled up over the whole season by McCann. It’s truly an impressive all-around picture painted analytically by McCann this year.
—5v5 goal scoring is probably the one negative still left for McCann. Like many forwards, he can be a streaky scorer. He seems extraordinarily affected by his own confidence levels — when he’s feeling it he’s one of the most dangerous players. He’s also prone to disappearing from the scoreboard for long stretches. Overall though, his playmaking and point creation more than makes up for the ups and downs of his game.
WAR metrics smiled kindly on McCann’s season this season. He was great at finishing, setting up plays and stingy defensively. That all adds up to a very strong season and useful player from a 2nd/3rd line role.
If you check the blue bars on top, you can see there were a couple of starts and stops due to injury, but McCann looks like an ascending player right now that is playing the best hockey in his career. He only recently turned 25, but has 353 games under his belt over six seasons, making him a prime player right now.
Looking at just that top chart shows why McCann got mostly B’s or A’s in 2018-19 as his primary points/60 was very strong that year. Last year in 2019-20, it slumped mightily, and McCann’s grade from Pensburgh readers was mostly C’s. In 2020-21, he’s driven the points/60 up to his highest career levels!
McCann’s impact from being off the ice to on it was very visible this season. Very impressive chart here.
Great things happened for the Penguins at 5v5 with McCann on the ice. They gave up almost nothing from in tight, and controlled play with shots offensively.
McCann was a Swiss Army knife type of player, being used on lines with everyone from Mark Jankowski-Brandon Tanev at the beginning of the season to later centering Jason Zucker and Evan Rodrigues to eventually settling into playing with Jeff Carter and Frederick Gaudreau down the stretch. With even some time spent with Evgeni Malkin + Kasperi Kapanen in the mix as well. Other than Crosby+Guentzel, McCann spent at least a short stretch playing with just about every other important forward on the team this season, showcasing a lot of utility as a center or on the wing.
Check out the bottom bar too, when Carter got to Pittsburgh he was locked at the hip with McCann and they quietly became a reliable and useful defensive start duo (check McCann’s red line going up at Game 40).
Going with two tumbling goals coming at the front of the net, and both at the expense of the Flyers!
McCann you believe this goal? pic.twitter.com/RefrcCP8ND— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 5, 2021
Even though it looked like he got hurt on that play, McCann would shake it off and stay in the game.
McCann scored 35 points in 66 games two seasons ago in 2019-20, and picked up right where he left off with 32 points in 43 games in 2020-21. He played center and wing, either on the second or third line. He was impressive with the advanced aspect and stepped up and got red hot for a bit on the power play, showcasing his plus shot to generate goals and help the Pittsburgh man advantage.
McCann isn’t always a very appreciated player, and since he gets bumped off the top power play at full health his production can ebb a bit, but it’s also worth remembering he was the second youngest regular forward on the team (with Kasperi Kapanen being less than two months younger).
2020-21 was about an ideal for McCann, besides the injuries. He was a dominant puck possession player who created a lot of scoring chances and racked up a lot of points in boxcars (4th on the team in goals, 5th in scoring) or via the rate stats with 2.4 5v5 P/60.
While McCann has center availability in times of injury, he’s best on the wing. With Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin - Carter down the middle, McCann is of great value on either the second or third line. He meshed well with Carter and at this point in the offseason has to be penciled in there.
McCann has done awesome at producing points in Pittsburgh scoring 84 points (39G+45A) in 141 games. That’s a full 82-game season pace of 49 points (23G+26A). Ideally for the Pens, all the members of their top power play stay healthy, and McCann does too, and he’s in that 20G-25A range that his rates place him at, while also being the super-sub for the power play and providing more excellent shot-based metrics.
Question to ponder
As mentioned, by age Jared McCann is the second youngest Pens’ forward (with Kapanen basically the same age with birthday separated by two months). McCann has excellent advanced metrics, 5v5 production and contributed to the power play. Why is his reputation and perception so under-valued with such impressive production? Should the team work him up to the second line and/or PP1 more, even without injuries? Given his speed and shot, when McCann is clicking he can be one of the hottest scorers around, and his overall work managing the puck and creating more chances then he gives up was on full display this season. Can McCann stay healthy and have a career season in 2021-22 with Carter?
How would you grade Mark Jankowski’s 2020-21 season?
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