If Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans are looking for a young player to root for, I’m pointing at Bobby McMann. Part of this choice is personal for me because McMann is from my old Alberta stomping grounds – from Wainwright. And, as a kid in school had to have read social studies textbooks that I wrote. [But that’s another story and before I was a Maple Leafs’ writer.]
What makes McMann worth rooting for is that he’s come from almost nowhere to make his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs this season. And, although he hasn’t scored – he had one called back on a kicking motion although it bounced around a ton before it went in – he hasn’t looked out of place either.
McMann Is a 26-Year Old Rookie Trying to Make the Show
McMann is a 26-year-old rookie who’s busting his buns trying to find consistent playing time in the NHL. And, he’s doing it in an organization that has tremendous forward depth. It has to be tough to break into the Maple Leafs’ lineup. Still, like any young and aspiring hockey player, McMann is determined to make an impact by proving that he deserves to play in the NHL.
He seems to possess the drive to do so. And, should he be successful, he might just be the kind of depth forward – at least at this stage of his career, he’s a bottom-six forward – who could become a valuable player as part of an extended playoff run.
Thus far, McMann hasn’t scored, and that’s an issue; however, he’s shown himself to be a hard-nosed player who’ll compete. That’s also impressive.
McMann Was a Surprise with the Marlies Last Season
Last season, with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, McMann set a rookie record by scoring 24 goals in 60 games. This season with the Marlies, he also made a strong impact. His point total was nearly a point a game (15 points in 17 games). He was called up to make his NHL debut when injuries to T.J. Brodie and Auston Matthews created the roster space.
Since his call-up, he’s performed well in the games he’s played. For now, he’s doing what’s expected as a bottom-six forward. He’s creating energy and he’s doing it while making only a few errors on the ice. In many ways, he’s proving he can be a reliable and consistent forward.
The Road to the NHL Hasn’t Been Easy for McMann
McMann’s journey to the NHL has been long and tough. He was undrafted; and, after his college career at Colgate University, he signed an AHL contract. He’s paid his dues in both the ECHL and AHL. Still, likely he was an afterthought until he burst on the AHL scene in the 2021-22 season. Scoring 24 goals in professional hockey can do that.
Suddenly, McMann was noticed. Could he produce consistently? Was he a potential key player in the organization? The organization decided to take a chance. After his standout season with the Marlies (24 goals and 35 points in 61 games), they signed him to a two-year, two-way contract. After he made his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that calling McMann up was “an easy decision.”
His Short Stint on the Maple Leafs’ Roster
McMann has played well in his NHL trial. He has a well-rounded offensive skillset and, despite not having a point. McMann has been productive in a depth role. His advanced analytics suggest as much. He’s generated a high Corsi, and his expected-goals percentages suggest he’s creating offensive opportunities for his team.
McMann’s performance against tough competition bodes well for his Maple Leafs’ future. Could he become a potential playoff depth player? He’s energetic and physical. Furthermore, he plays with speed. He’s also smart, and strong, and can use his size as a reliable third or fourth-liner.
McMann is also good on the forecheck, protects the puck well, and effectively keeps plays alive in the offensive zone.
All these attributes could help make him an ideal depth player over the second half of the season. McMann seems smart enough to play to his strengths by providing energy in the bottom six. Coach Keefe has praised his work ethic and determination, already calling him a valuable member of the team.
It’s Hard Not to Root for a Hard-Working Young Player Who’s Come from Small Town Alberta
Forgive me eastern Alberta, because Wainwright is a nice little town. But, who would have thought – until last season – that one of its young players could make it this far in the Maple Leafs’ organization?
McMann’s attitude and work ethic are noticeable. As an old guy myself, he’s the kind of player I want on the Maple Leafs’ lineup and in their organization. He doesn’t take his success for granted.
I’m rooting for him to become a key piece of the Maple Leafs’ future. He has the mindset and I believe he has the potential. Now all he has to do is find some scoring. The rest he’s shown he’s able to do.