There was no time for Jared McCann to sit back and relax this off-season. He was too busy getting better.
And bigger. And faster. And stronger.
The now 21-year old McCann changed up his summer routine to get ready for a pivotal season in his young career, the third and final year of his entry-level contract.
“I went to train with Matt Nichol at BioSteel this year,” said McCann on Sunday after an intense, high-pace practice at the Panthers’ training camp. “It was a lot different than what I’ve been doing. On the ice pretty much every day, I feel like that was a huge step in the right direction.”
BioSteel, founded by Nichol, is a well-known sports nutrition company based out of Toronto that endorses many of the NHL’s top players, including Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos, and more.
The company holds an annual hockey camp for NHL players to train and prepare for the upcoming season.
“Working out with guys like Tyler Seguin, Michael Del Zotto, they push each other, and I felt like I was kind of missing that,” McCann explained. “Now that I had it this summer, I’m ready to go.”
“Michael Del Zotto’s probably one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen in the gym. I tried to follow him as much as I could.”
Just over a year ago after McCann was acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks, he came into development camp out of shape, at least by the Panthers’ standards.
The Canucks wanted a thicker player with an edge to his game while the Panthers wanted a slimmer, faster player.
After injuries plagued the Panthers’ forward group during the 2016 preseason, they turned to McCann and his 69 games of NHL experience to fill a roster spot.
He did just that but struggled, causing his ice time and the coaching staff’s trust in him to wane.
“I just think it was confidence,” McCann said of his up and down stint in the NHL. “I didn’t have the confidence and I don’t think the coach had confidence in me.”
He went to the AHL where made his league debut and worked closely with the Springfield Thunderbirds’ head coach Geordie Kinnear.
“When I went down, I worked hard,” said McCann. “I feel like the coach gave me the opportunity to play well.”
It was Kinnear who explained to McCann that shuttling him back and forth between the NHL and AHL would do him no good; gaining confidence and laying a foundation of playing the right way would be more beneficial in the long run.
“Geordie helped me out a lot with confidence,” McCann added. “He brought me in the room pretty much everyday, we worked on video. On the ice, worked on my shot, just kept working at it and in the end it paid off.”
The Stratford, Ontario-native totaled 25 points in 42 games in Springfield, including a hat-trick, 8 points, and CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors in the final 4 games of the season.
This year, McCann is noticeably improved, both in his approach to the season and his physical appearance, which is exactly what the Panthers were hoping for.
As a result, he’s right in the mix for a roster spot again this season. There’s a spot open on the second-line left wing as well as a few in the bottom-6, and because of his offensive ability, the Panthers’ brass will certainly weigh all of their options.
Either way, McCann is very confident, and more-so than he’s ever been.
“I want to be in the NHL,” he said. “I know I can play here and I’m gonna work for it.”
“I’m ready, I had a huge summer, I’m ready to go.”
And he didn’t hesitate one bit.