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McIsaac doing best to block out draft-season pressure

Halifax defenseman earned A rating from NHL Central Scouting on preliminary players to watch list

by Guillaume Lepage @GLepageLNH / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Defenseman Jared McIsaac of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League hasn't had to move far during his development as a high-end prospect.

McIsaac was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, and has climbed the minor hockey ladder within the province, including playing for a midget team in Cole Harbour, the hometown of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. He's been able to stay in his home province for his junior career when Halifax, which is about 60 miles south of Truro, traded four picks to choose him with the No. 2 selection in the 2016 QMJHL draft.

But he'll soon be looking to leave Nova Scotia for the NHL.

McIsaac earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting on its preliminary players to watch list for the 2018 NHL Draft. He's one of nine defensemen to earn an A rating, meaning he's considered a first-round prospect. However, McIsaac isn't looking ahead to what could happen at the draft.

"I don't think there's any pressure," he said. "Obviously you want to perform your best every night. I think that's the pressure you put on yourself. All I can control is how I play and what I do night in, night out."

McIsaac has six points, all assists, In 13 games this season. He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in five games to help Canada win the gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August.

"McIsaac is a good puck mover and sees many options on zone exits," said Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting. "He's good at distributing the puck on the power play, and he plays top-pairing minutes."

Considered a two-way defenseman, McIsaac tries to model his game after Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

"I like to play physically and to contribute offensively and defensively," he said. "I'm willing to play any role. I want to contribute as much as possible and hopefully go pretty deep in the playoffs. That's the main goal."

Halifax coach Jim Midgley is working with McIsaac to help him reach that goal. The two have been together since 2015, when Midgley coached McIsaac with the Nova Scotia under-16 team at the 2015 Canada Winter Games. And before he took over as Halifax coach this season, Midgley was an assistant in charge of the defensemen under former coach Andre Tourigny in 2016-17, when McIsaac made his QMJHL debut.

"We're really happy with his progress," Midgley said. "He's a local guy, from Nova Scotia, so we've watched him grow up. He's got an elite package. He's a really good skater, he has good hockey sense and he moves the puck well. He's just got to be consistent with it, and we're working with him."

McIsaac (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), a left-handed shot, discovered hockey through his father, Jamie, and his uncle, Jon, who is an NHL referee. But he credits Midgley for helping him reach this point.

"There's a lot people, coaches, but I'd say Jim Midgley has been a big part of my success so far," McIsaac said. "I'm fortunate to be with him for close to five years now under his wing with Nova Scotia and the Mooseheads."

McIsaac also has 26 penalty minutes this season and said he still has work to do to perfect his game. But Midgley sees a ton of promise.

"Jared wants to be better every day," Midgley said. "He wants to work on his shot, he wants to improve his shot and the defensive side of [his game] too. It's going to come. It's a process. We understand that, and we're doing our best to get him better."

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