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How do you do, Jared McCann?

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The Canucks former first round pick is off to a good start with the Florida Panthers.

NHL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers
Sep 28, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Jared McCann (90) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with right wing Owen Tippett (74) in the second period at BB&T Center.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not too often you see a floundering team trade a 20-year-old first-round draft pick for veteran help, but that’s exactly what Jim Benning did on May 25th, 2016.

After a rookie season with mixed results in 2015-16, Benning shipped Jared McCann, along with a second and a fourth round pick to the Florida Panthers for Erik Gudbranson.

If you google the trade now, two of the first articles that pop up call the trade a ‘head-scratcher’ and ‘lopsided.’

Those guys weren’t patting Benning on the back for a job well done.

Both McCann and Gudbranson had tumultuous first seasons with their new clubs. Gudbranson played in only 30 games, and he wasn’t impressive for most of those, McCann played in one less game than Gudbranson, and he only had one more point than the rugged defender.

The two players connected by trade look better this year, but one player’s early performance stands out above the other.

“Lonely Star” McCann

Part of the reason why McCann was traded was his supposed bad attitude in the locker room.

Is it all that surprising that a 19-year-old kid got cocky after surprisingly cracking the Vancouver Canucks roster, especially after he scored five goals in his first nine games?

Benning never came out publicly and stated that McCann had a bad attitude, and for good reason. If McCann’s cockiness was a reason for his trade and that was made public, there’s a good chance that Benning would have already received his walking papers.

McCann got a wake up call last season after struggling at the NHL level and spending a good chunk of the season in the AHL. Early in the 2017-18 season, McCann looks to have a new purpose.

He managed to make the Florida Panthers out of training camp, which was no guarantee. McCann did have a good chance of making it after the Panthers lost offensive players such as Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault.

McCann has started his season out with two goals and five points in his first seven games, despite playing in a bottom-six role. He’s averaged just over 11 minutes per game, and his 3.86 points-per-60 at even strength is fourth on the Panthers.

It’s not the first time McCann got off to a hot start. He did scored five goals in his first nine NHL games, and he’s only scored seven in 96 games since then. However, his early season performance is showing that he can be a part of this young Panthers core moving forward.

An injury has now know knocked McCann out of the lineup, but he’s showing early on that he belongs at the NHL level.

Oh Guddy

Well, at least Gudbranson belongs in the NHL. There’s no question about that, is there?

It’s no secret that Gudbranson has never been adored by the analytics crowd. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The problem last year is that Gudbranson didn’t pass the eye test or the fancy stats test. He got shelled in terms of scoring-chances against and goals-against on an unsuccessful pairing with Ben Hutton. The pairing never gelled and they ended up dragging each other down.

It led to Gudbranson signing a one-year prove it deal for $3.5 million, as opposed to signing a more lucrative, long-term contract. That was the only choice Benning had after Gudbranson’s incomplete season.

So far this season, the jury is still out on his play. That’s not good for a player who has 349 games of NHL experience.

Ten games into Gudbranson’s season, and the big man is still bleeding scoring chances. His 38.12 scoring chances against per 60 are worst on the Canucks, and his high-danger Corsi against trails only Thomas Vanek.

One thing working in his favour is the low-event hockey buried down in his stat sheet. His 1.31 goals-against per 60 is third-best among Canucks regulars. Judging by the scoring chances given up while he’s on the ice, that seems more lucky than anything else. He’s also not creating anything in terms of goals-for.

The only thing going for Gudbranson is that he’s the only Canuck that plays with an edge. While that’s becoming less valuable in the NHL, it’s always going to be a key component of a game that’s inherently violent. You love when Gudbranson takes care of a pest like Tom Wilson, but you also want to pull your hair out when he takes terrible penalties.

Who’d You Rather?

If there’s one glowing reason why the Canucks need Gudbranson more than McCann, it’s because of a need for defencemen in this lineup as opposed to forwards.

This wasn’t the case at the time of the trade, when the Canucks lacked depth at both positions.

How would the Canucks defence look right now without Gudbranson? How much do you like Alex Biega in your top four?

Meanwhile, the Canucks forward depth is good enough to push promising youngsters like Nikolay Goldobin to the minors.

Aside from that, this trade is certainly not trending in the Canucks direction. McCann is playing with purpose this season while Gudbranson has done nothing much to show that he’s deserving of a hefty long-term contract.

How do you feel about the trade right now, and which player would you rather have?