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Sault Ste. Marie's McCann seeks consistency in game

by Aaron Vickers

Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque reportedly changed his skate laces before every game and between each period.

Patrick Roy carefully laid out every piece of his equipment on the floor of the locker room before putting them on in a specific order, in addition to chatting up his goal posts during games. Joe Nieuwendyk apparently would sprinkle a bit of baby powder on his sticks before hitting the ice.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds center Jared McCann, No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, has his own superstition.

Although Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds center Jared McCann established career highs in goals and points, he believes better days are ahead. (Photo: James Egan Photography)

"I like to hop into a cold tub before every game," McCann said. "I don't like to get away from the things I do before the game. I'm pretty superstitious."

It didn't just come without a bit of inspiration, though. It was born out of necessity, too.

After starting the season by helping Canada win the gold medal at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament, McCann carried that success into his second season with the Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, totaling seven goals and 11 points in his first five games.

But McCann found himself in a slump that saw him score one goal in the next 12 games. He felt he needed to switch his routine in order to find his way back on the score sheet.

"I hadn't been scoring for a while and I felt like doing something different, and with my agency, a couple guys like Rick Nash and John Mitchell hop in cold tubs," said McCann. "I thought, 'What the heck.'"

McCann, 17, tried it before his next game, and finished with a hat trick.

The routine has served as a bit of a metaphor for McCann. The 6-foot-0.25, 179-pound forward has tried continually to shake off the inconsistency that has plagued him during his brief OHL career. Though the native of London, Ontario has established new career highs with 27 goals and 62 points in 64 games, the streaky McCann admits his production needs to come with more reliability, among other things.

"I've got to be way more consistent with my game," he said. "I've got to get bigger, I've got to get stronger and be more physical sometimes. I feel like my game play has improved, but other than that I've got to be more consistent."

McCann has had multi-point games on 16 different occasions this season. But he's also been held without a point in 27 games.

That inconsistency bothers McCann, but doesn't concern Central Scouting's Chris Edwards.

"Junior players are often streaky," said Edwards. "[McCann] plays for the Greyhounds, who have the toughest travel schedule in the OHL. He is just under a point a game guy this season. His work ethic is excellent and he does so much to help his team -- penalty killing, power play. I am not sure I would have any concerns over a few quiet nights. He is contributing even when he is not producing points."

There's plenty to like in McCann's game regardless of how many goals or assists he's putting on the board for the Greyhounds.

"Jared is a highly skilled and creative playmaker," Edwards said. "He has excellent hands and puckhandling ability. He sees the ice very well and can get the puck through traffic with great saucer passes.

"He is not a guy who will always bring you out of your seat but is dangerous every shift and at the end of the game he will quietly have a goal and three assists. Jared is an excellent penalty killer, smart and reads the play very well."

McCann's game has earned him a reputation as one of the top draft-eligible forwards. However, McCann feels he can elevate his game even higher.

"I've been doing pretty well," McCann said. "I felt like I was a little inconsistent at the start of the season and I've felt that I've been picking it up. It's been coming through well.

"I feel like there's way more I can give. I'm not really satisfied until I'm at the top."

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