This article first appeared in the June 24, 2014 print editions of the London Free Press.

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Jared McCann was born in Stratford and spent most of his minor hockey years playing for the London Junior Knights. He recently signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken – a clear sign that he’s a major part of the expansion club’s present and future. We’ve been watching McCann for years, and our Ryan Pyette interviewed him before his 2014 NHL Draft. This article, below, first appeared in the June 24, 2014 print editions of the London Free Press:

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The NHL Draft is, more than anything else, a system of assigning numbers to people. Who goes first, second, third? How the hell did the guy ranked eighth on the list end up dropping to 25th?

Jared McCann never got too carried away with all the hype.

When he was a child, his father Matt bought him a jersey from his favorite club – the Los Angeles Kings – “because I liked the colors and the name of the team”.

He left the back of the shirt blank.

“I don’t really believe in picks and it doesn’t really matter,” said the Soo Greyhounds forward, who will be the first Londoner selected, likely midway through the first round, Friday in Philadelphia. “Take a guy like Henrik Zetterberg who was picked in the seventh round (by Detroit, 210th overall, in 1999) and look at him now, right? It doesn’t really affect me that much. I know from what I am capable of and I know I can improve my game and play at the next level.

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Draft Day is relatively easy for top picks like Aaron Ekblad and Sam Bennett. They know they can only end up on a handful of teams, anyway.

McCann has been contacted by just about every franchise. Scouts saw him waltz against London defenders Nikita Zadorov and Brady Austin at Budweiser Gardens in December for one of his finest of 27 goals this season. But the general managers also wanted to deepen his pragmatic personality.

“They did their best,” he said. “I just answered their questions as quickly and honestly as possible and went from there. I feel like they wanted to know me as a person, but in reality they want to know what I can do on ice.

“I know I will go to the team that wants me the most. I feel like I could have had a better season and probably improved (his 10th overall on the North American skaters list NHL Central Scouting), but if a team wants me, they’ll come get me.

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The former PEAC hockey academy student will miss his high school graduation at London Aquinas this week to don the cap and jersey of an NHL team to be determined.

For McCann, it’s about the comforting family embrace after being called on stage.

“My family is the reason I am where I am and they have done everything for me,” he said. “I don’t think I could ever thank them enough. It’s been a wild ride so far and I hope I can keep going so I can pay them back one day.

McCann hasn’t been one to hide his appreciation.

When he turned 18 three weeks ago, he went to Perfect Image on Richmond St. and got a tattoo honoring his mother Erin.

“She’s had (multiple sclerosis) since she was 18, so I got a tattoo when I was 18,” he said. “She had that and a form of cancer. I have (ink) on the same leg. There are his initials (EM) and a cancer symbol with a hockey stick through it. It’s something I thought about a lot. She did so much for me and I wanted to show her that I cared about her.

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“She’s definitely tough and I hope I get (her toughness) from her.”

A head injury in Game 1 of the playoffs in Owen Sound ended McCann’s rookie season in the OHL. Last spring, he faced the same attacking team in a first-round series and scored twice in the opener.

His determination and authoritative shot can be traced back to his childhood games at home with his older siblings – brother Justin and sister Jamie – in Stratford.

“We started throwing pucks on the outside to see who would go in the net, and it was usually me, because I’m the youngest,” Jared said. “I have really good scars on my face from high sticks and stuff like that. My brother (adopted from Guatemala) played hockey with Huron-Perth (Lakers). He helped me with my skills, but he has stone hands, so I definitely didn’t take those from him. My sister was more the enforcer. She threw me several times.

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McCann’s arrival in London made an already strong Junior Knights Minor Midget team even better.

“I never once had to say to him, ‘Hey, you’re not working hard enough,'” said Rob Simpson, his former coach and now assistant general manager of the London Knights. “He led our team without saying anything. When you have one of your best players on the ice early and he stays late, naturally the rest of the players think, ‘if he’s doing this, then I should be too.’ »

McCann had some reservations about moving from Stratford, where he felt he knew everyone, to greater London.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be accepted, but everyone welcomed me with open arms,” ​​he said. “I will probably still live in London or Stratford, or somewhere in between. It is an incredible region. I went to see a few Memorial Cup games and the atmosphere was ridiculous. »

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He also followed the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Kings, especially his favorite player Jeff Carter and fellow former Greyhound Jake Muzzin. They endured those marathon OHL bus rides and also got a taste of Soo’s passion for the puck in their junior years.

“For me, it’s more about stopping guys at the next level (like Carter) who are 6-foot-4, 220 pounds,” the 6-foot, 179-pound McCann said. “Points aren’t going to define me as a player. Obviously I can score goals so it’s not something I focus on. It’s getting stronger and I felt more responsible in my defensive zone this year. .

“I really don’t care that much about points.”

After all, these are just numbers.


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