It was evident throughout his rookie campaign with the Vancouver Canucks. As skilled as Jared McCann is, he just wasn’t physically ready to compete as a 19-year-old center in the Pacific Division.
He admitted as much toward the end of last season — “I know that I have to get bigger and stronger. That’s something that the summer is going to be about for me,” he told The Province newspaper at the time — after the Canucks chose to keep him with the big club rather than send him back to junior.
He scored nine goals and 18 points in 69 games.
However, it sounds as though McCann, now a member of the Florida Panthers after a trade from Vancouver in late-May, has beefed up over the last few months.
“Last year was definitely tough,” McCann told the Sun Sentinel. “I wasn’t ready physically matured. My skill level took over when I made the team [out of training camp]. I put on 25 pounds since the end of the season.”
The Panthers have been busy this off-season, with front office moves, bolstering their defense through the trade market and free agency and extending Aaron Ekblad, and re-signing key forwards like Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith.
Acquiring McCann, Vancouver’s second first-round pick in 2014, was among those moves, as the Panthers added to their forward depth. Ahead of him at center are Aleksander Barkov, Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad — all under the age of 24 — and 35-year-old Derek MacKenzie, who recently signed a two-year extension.
After beginning last season in the middle, McCann was able to gain experience playing on the wing later on for the Canucks.
He may need to continue at the wing in order to make the Panthers next season.
“You’ve got be versatile,” McCann told the Vancouver Sun in March.
“If you want to stay in the lineup, you’ve got to learn to adapt. It’s not my natural position, not something I’ve done a lot. But having guys on this team who have played wing their whole lives, I just try to be a sponge and take in as much as I can. You’ve got to be a versatile player if you want to be in the NHL. I’ve got to switch it up.”