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AP

Jared McCann ready to flourish after pre-expansion draft mayhem

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Kraken Expansion Draft Hockey

The Seattle Kraken NHL hockey flag flies on top of the Space Needle, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, before the Kraken's expansion draft event. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

For a few days, Jared McCann may have had the most chaotic time of anyone in hockey.

Projected to be exposed to the Kraken expansion draft by the Penguins, Pittsburgh instead sent the forward to Toronto the day prior. The Maple Leafs, using McCann as a guard so they could protect their other forwards, left him exposed.

So, as expected, McCann did end up a member of the Kraken. Just in about the most roundabout way ever.

"It was pretty stressful," said McCann. "I don't think many guys have gone through what I went through this summer. But everything happens for a reason and I'm a firm believer in that."

The 25-year-old forward had his most successful NHL season yet in 2021 with the Penguins, piggybacking off another successful 2019-20 campaign. Of course, playing on a team with offensive stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will help.

He posted 32 points in 43 games in 2021, his most points-per-game in his career. He also set career highs with seven of his 14 goals coming on the power play, which gives a strong indicator of what kind of a player he will be in Seattle.

He's not quite sure what his role will be with the Kraken just yet. Describing himself as a two-way player, he's played on the center and the wing, killed penalties, and seen his offensive game blossom. McCann prides himself playing in all situations, and is hopeful that's what he can do in Seattle.

"I think I just got more opportunities," he said. "In Pittsburgh with some guys being out, I got some more time. I showed that I could handle it and I'm looking forward to doing it again in Seattle."

McCann has been traded before. Never in quite as dramatic fashion as his Pittsburgh-to-Toronto-to-Seattle journey, but changing teams isn't new. He was a Canucks first-round draft pick in 2014, so despite never having been to Seattle before, coming back to the Pacific Northwest has a full-circle feel.

"Coming into a new organization is a lot of excitement," said McCann. "There's a lot of opportunity with a new team, it's a sports city already with the Mariners and the Seahawks. It's pretty cool we get to join that now."

Even if a three-teams-in-three-days is unfamiliar territory for anyone in the league, switching teams isn't new for McCann. He's moved around plenty, from Vancouver to Florida to Pittsburgh and now back to the Pacific Northwest in Seattle, so he knows what it's like being the new guy on a team.

Everyone on the Kraken is the new guy, though. Not many players have experience with anyone else on the roster. McCann at least has his former Penguins teammate Brandon Tanev, who was selected from Pittsburgh once McCann was a part of the Maple Leafs roster.

"We chatted a bit (after) to congratulate each other," said Tanev. "It's exciting to be going into a place where you're really familiar with someone that I played with. Jared is a great person and amazing player, it's gonna be amazing to get there and play with him again."

McCann and Tanev have played on the same line at times, accumulating 96:16 together in 2021 in five-on-five play. Tanev had success with McCann, posting a 54.17 Corsi percentage when they were together, and the duo generated nine goals and just two against.

That gives head coach Dave Hakstol something to work with, and McCann has a few other connections as well.

"I played with Haydn Fleury and against him with Team Canada," said McCann. "So I do have that kind of a start going for me. You get to know the guys a lot by going out with each other and like, having beers with them and sitting around and talking. A lot of team chemistry starts right from that."

Chemistry will be the early challenge for everyone, as it always is for a brand new team. McCann at least has begun to settle into his prime, and the Kraken appear to have gotten him right as his career is flourishing.

It was a winding road to get to Seattle, and back to the area where his NHL career began, but McCann is returning to the west from Pittsburgh via Toronto as a more well-rounded player than he was last time.

"This is my fourth team," he said. "I'm excited for a new city and see how things work out this time."

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