Position: Left Wing
Weight: 186 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2012 Draft
Last Year's Ranking: NR
If there's one thing we know about the Hurricanes draft strategy, it's that their management team usually has their eyes on a few players and do not mind reaching for them if the opportunity is presented. This is what they did with Brock McGinn during the 2012 Draft. McGinn's stats weren't impressive and he wasn't projected to go in the Top 50, but the Hurricanes decided to take him in the second round because they had liked what they saw from him. With former Hurricane Scott Walker being his junior coach, the team's scouts had some connections to McGinn and knew a lot about him, so this could have influenced their decision.
At the time of the selection, I considered this pick a "reach" in the second round because McGinn was known as a physical player and didn't have great counting stats. It looked like his ceiling was that of a checking line forward, which could have been found in one of the later rounds or signed via free agency. One year later, this pick looks a lot better, as McGinn ended up having a career season in Guelph and contributed more offense than he ever had before. Despite starting the year with a bad wrist, McGinn ended the season with 28 goals and scored at nearly a point-per-game pace, both of which are impressive for a player who was considered a "grinder" for most of his career.
It was nice to see McGinn's offense improve last year, but this wasn't the reason why he was drafted. Carolina's scouts and management were high on McGinn because of his physical approach to the game and his defensive play. McGinn's the type of player who hits anything that moves and is usually the first one in on the forecheck to win a puck battle in the corner or along the boards. Many of his contributions didn't show up on the scoresheet, but he did a lot to help Guelph's territorial game over the last two years and was seen as an important player by his coaches and teammates.
Another reason why the Hurricanes liked McGinn is because he plays a type of game that can translate to the NHL well. There are always a lot of forwards who light up the scoreboard in juniors but fail to do much in the pros because they don't fit into a bottom-six role or play well away from the puck. McGinn is sort of the opposite of that. He has some natural skill, but won't dazzle you on the ice and records most of his points by crashing the net or shooting to create rebounds. He isn't shy about physical play, so going to the dirty areas to score is not an issue for McGinn and a lot of NHL clubs usually look for a player who can do this effectively. The fact that McGinn doesn't need to score to be a contributing player also says promising things about his potential, as he could fit into a third or fourth line role within the next couple of years.
However, just because McGinn hasn't scored much in juniors doesn't mean he can't be an effective offensive player, and he proved that last year. As I noted earlier, McGinn does most of his scoring by going to the crease and cashing in on rebounds, but he is pretty effective with the puck. He has a very good shot and a decent amount of play-making ability that he just needs to show off a little more. If he does that, then he could be a very strong two-way player but he might need another year in juniors to tone that part of his game.
Next to Keegan Lowe, I would say that McGinn improved the most over the past calendar year, and that's why I have him in the Top 15 in this list. When he was drafted, McGinn had injury concerns and hadn't shown much in juniors other than his physical play. Now that his offense has finally come around and he was able to stay in the lineup every night, he looks like he can be a much better player at the NHL level. Right now, I see him similar to Daniel Winnik of the Anaheim Ducks. He's probably a borderline top-six player, but he is someone who can skate well, forecheck hard and help his team control play in the offensive zone by winning battles in front of the boards. He could probably be a little better than that if he continues to work on his offensive skills and be better in open ice, but where he is at now is fine.
McGinn will find his way to the NHL, but the question is how long will the Hurricanes have to wait on him. Personally, I think he could benefit from another year at juniors since he has a couple more things to work on. However, it's possible that he might make his debut earlier than that because he played a few games with Charlotte at the end of the season and the coaches loved him. Still, I think another year in juniors is probably the right call for now. The reason why they liked him so much is because of his physical play and he can be so much more than just a "grinder" if he is given the ice time and the opportunity to work on his offensive skills. Another year in Guelph with top-six minutes will give him the chance to do that, but it wouldn't surprise me if he makes the jump sooner than we think.