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McBain One for the Future

Wednesday, 09.16.2009 / 4:11 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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McBain One for the Future
It’s just the nature of the position – most defenseman, no matter how high-profile they are as prospects, take longer to develop than forwards.

Paul Branecky
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Although he became arguably the Hurricanes’ best defensive prospect after an outstanding three-year college career at Wisconsin, that could be the case for 21-year-old Jamie McBain. The organization has high hopes for their second-round choice in 2006, but his transition from college star to NHL regular probably won’t happen overnight.

His offensive skills may already be up to par, as his 37 points in 40 total games last season led all Wisconsin skaters. Additionally, his 28 points in conference play led all players, making just the second time in WCHA history that a defenseman has accomplished that feat.

“My offense has kind of always been my forte,” said McBain, who is about to begin his first full professional season following his decision to forego his final season of college eligibility last March. “I’ve always been a good puck handler.”

His efforts in 2008-09 led to his selection as the WCHA Player of the Year and as one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the NCCA’s top player.

”On an individual basis it was a year you could only dream of,” he said. “It was unbelievable from my point production and just from the way I felt out there. There were some games where I thought I should have had even more points and been even more into the Hobey Baker race.

Barring a spectacular preseason, McBain will likely be asked to spend the majority of next season developing the defensive side of his game in Albany alongside the Hurricanes’ other top prospects. While he’s no slouch in in his own end after making significant advancements over the last few years, that’s always the hardest part for a young player to learn.

”Through the years at Wisconsin under (Assistant) Coach (Mark) Osiecki, he did just a fantastic job of making sure I showed improvements each year on the defensive side,” said McBain. “With the little things like stick positioning and body positioning, he did just a great job with me. There’s still room for improvement, but from where I was, there’s definitely been huge strides.”

If McBain is asked to undergo some minor-league seasoning before making the big jump, he won’t need to look far for evidence that such moves often work out. Despite being drafted fifth overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1991, it wasn’t until the 1996-97 season that Aaron Ward played his first full year for the Detroit Red Wings. Around 760 games played and three Stanley Cups later, he’s doing just fine.

”A lot of times this position is a maturity game,” said Ward. “Some of it is knowledge of the speed of the game and a lot of it is knowledge of the players you’re playing against. That all comes from experience.”

”For me, it was a maturing process,” recalled Ward of his own rise through the ranks. “My biggest problem when I was younger was that I ran after hits. I got in my mind that I got drafted because I was a physical player, but if you make seven or eight spectacular hits and you come out of the game minus-three, you’re not going to be out there much longer.”

While it’s strange to think about since it’s been three years since the Hurricanes drafted McBain, he would actually be ahead of the four-to-five year curve demonstrated by current Canes defensemen Ward, Andrew Alberts, Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason if he were to hold a regular spot on an NHL blue line this season.

In that sense, look for McBain to have a real chance to crack the roster on a full-time basis in the coming seasons. The Canes seem to have little doubt that he will.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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