This story was originally posted on The Hockey News
By Ryan Kennedy
When you don’t have first-rounders, you have to find your talent elsewhere. Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs already have some of the most exciting youngsters in the NHL on their squad, the pipeline of the future must always be fed and recently, the organization made a spate of free-agent signings from the college and junior ranks. One of the more intriguing names is Bobby McMann, the erstwhile captain of NCAA Colgate and the Raiders’ leading scorer the past three seasons. McMann had previously attended a couple rookie camps with the Nashville Predators and had multiple offers from other NHL teams this spring for an AHL deal, but Toronto (specifically, the Marlies) won out for his services.
“It’s such a great hockey market and I wanted to go somewhere that fit my game,” McMann said. “They really liked my game and the speed I can bring; they want to play up the ice with a lot of speed and they thought I would fit well there.”
McMann popped onto my radar last summer when I dropped in on Joe Quinn’s Power Edge Pro camp in Toronto. McMann has been in the PEP system for the past six years and came to the Toronto week on recommendation from one of Quinn’s instructors out in Wainwright, Alberta, where McMann hails from.
“He was super-impressive,” Quinn said. “He’s got the whole package, lots of skill. He fit right in with our top players, like Jack Hughes and Connor McDavid.”
Other PEP participants include Quinn Hughes and Dylan Larkin, so you know the competition level is elite. For McMann, the experience was illuminating.
“That was really cool,” he said. “I had a couple camps in Toronto with the NHL guys and another one in Kelowna. You get to see the elite level they play at, how quickly they make decisions, how skilled they are with the puck. More than anything, how intense they are in their practises and in wanting to get better. That drives me to elevate my game, work hard and hopefully be at that level pretty soon.”
Before Colgate, he had played in the Alberta Jr. A League with the Bonnyville Pontiacs, where he was named AJHL player of the year in 2015-16. That’s when a bunch of NCAA teams came calling, but McMann stuck to his previous commitment to the Raiders.
“They were one of the first to reach out and similar to Toronto, they liked my game,” he said. “More than anything, they were going to give me a great opportunity there. I really liked the coaching staff and I got a chance to get a great education, too. It was the whole package.”
Playing for a low-scoring Colgate program, McMann didn’t put up gaudy numbers in college, but playing that hard ECAC schedule did force him to adapt his game.
“It was definitely tough to generate offense,” he said. “It taught me where you need to be at specific times and how to get to the front of the net, because that’s where goals are scored. It’s an older league, so it’s harder to play in and I hope that translates to the pros for me.”
During his four-year tenure with the Raiders, McMann got a chance to put some more detail into his game, as well.
“I would say decision-making was the biggest change,” he said. “The difference between junior and college is so many guys are strong and you have to pick your spots. If you think you’ll skate through everybody – that’s never gonna happen.”
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