SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers made their first big splash of what is expected to be an exciting offseason on Wednesday night, sending defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for center Jared McCann, a 2016 second-round pick and a 2016 fourth-round pick.
McCann, 19, was a first-round selection, 24th overall, by the Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft. After compiling 81 points (34-47—81) in 56 games with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the 6-foot, 180-pound native of Stratford, Ontario jumped right from junior hockey into Vancouver’s lineup, recording 18 points (9-9—18) in 69 games as a rookie last season.
On Thursday, McCann sat down with FloridaPanthers.com’s Jameson Olive to discuss everything from the first thing he plans to ask Jaromir Jagr to what he expects to bring to Florida’s young and talented lineup.
OLIVE: First of all, welcome to the Panthers!
McCANN: Thanks. I’m really excited to be here.
OLIVE: What was your initial reaction when you heard that you had been traded to the Panthers?
McCANN: I was definitely shocked. It wasn’t something I was expecting at all. I understand the business side of hockey, and now I got to experience it first hand.
OLIVE: The Panthers not only won the Atlantic Division last season, but also set franchise records for wins (47) and points (103). What does it mean for you to be joining a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference?
McCANN: It’s very exciting. Even when I played against (the Panthers) last year, I could tell that they were a really good team and built to go far. I’m very excited to join that.
OLIVE: Was there anything in particular that stood out to you about the Panthers in the two games you played against them last season?
McCANN: They played such a skill game. They move the puck well, and that’s the type of game I try to play every night. I know I still have to make the team and go to training camp and work hard, but I feel like Florida really plays my type of game.
OLIVE: You made your NHL debut with the Canucks last season, scoring 18 points (9-9—18) in 69 games as a rookie. What was that experience like and what would you say was your biggest takeaway from your first NHL season?
McCANN: Mentally, it was tough. Going through games where you don’t really do too much was frustrating. When I played in juniors, I was known as a goal scorer and a guy that contributed offensively. Last year, it was kind of a different role for me. Still, mentally, I learned a lot from the older guys like Radim Vrbata and the Sedins about taking it one game at a time and not squeezing the stick too tight.
OLIVE: Now that you’ve learned those lessons, how eager are you to apply them to your game with the Panthers next season?
McCANN: I feel like it’s going to be a lot easier. They’ve prepared me for it. Moving forward, I feel like I’m going to be better off.
OLIVE: You’re known as a traditional center, but you also played on the wing quite a bit last season. Given how strong the Panthers are currently down the middle, how comfortable are you playing as a winger?
McCANN: I’m very comfortable on the wing. I played quite a few games on the wing last year with the Canucks and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on that. Obviously, there are some things I need to work on, but I want to be known as a versatile player that can play every position.
OLIVE: A lot of Panthers fans were probably in bed by the time most of your Western Conference games with the Canucks aired on TV last season. For those that have never seen you play, how would you describe your approach to the game?
McCANN: I’m a two-way player. I care about defense just as much as offense. I know that it’s a huge part of the game. Moving forward, I want to contribute more offensively and continue to grow as a player.
OLIVE: As you prepare for your sophomore season in the NHL, how excited are you to grow with Florida’s other young forwards like 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov, 22-year-old Vincent Trocheck and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau?
McCANN: It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great opportunity.
OLIVE: Are there any Panthers players in particular you are looking forward to playing with?
McCANN: I played with Aaron Ekblad for some Team Canada teams when we were younger. I’ve also always looked up to Jaromir Jagr, who is one of the best players in the world. I’m very excited to meet him.
OLIVE: Any idea what your first question for Jagr will be?
McCANN: I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll ask him what conditioner he uses or something like that. [Laughs.]
OLIVE: Do you have any ties to South Florida?
McCANN: When I was really young I went there on vacation. My grandparents actually have a house there. I’m not sure where, but it’s somewhere down in Florida. I think it’s near Tampa.
OLIVE: It seems like everybody’s grandparents live down here!
McCANN: Yes it does. [Laughs.]
OLIVE: As someone who played both their junior and professional hockey in Canada, what are you thoughts on living and playing in the unique and tropical climate of South Florida?
McCANN: It’s kind of a different side of everything. It’s going to take a while to get used to, but I’m looking forward to it.