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McFarland's talent certainly can't be denied

Sudbury Wolves prospect was centre of attention long before 2010 NHL entry draft

Tuesday, 15.06.2010 / 11:37 AM / Draft 2010
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
Sudbury Wolves centre John McFarland is considered one of the top offensive talents in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. But opinions vary on exactly where he'll be picked (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).
(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 16 selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 25-26 in Los Angeles. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting)..

Centre of attention?

Let's just say John McFarland knows all about that sentiment, and then some.

It's been that way since well before the Sudbury Wolves made the 18-year-old native of Richmond Hill, Ont., the top pick in the Ontario Hockey League draft two years ago.

But ask McFarland about it and he'll tell you it's something that he absolutely relishes.

"I think that's something as a player that you always want against you," McFarland told NHL.com. "You always want to be the go-to guy on your own team and the guy other teams are going to want to go after. It would have been harder to have to face that earlier in my career rather than in other cases, it would have happened later.

"But at the same time, it's made me a better hockey player. I've learned a lot from it and continued to grow and learn from it."

It's also made McFarland the subject of intense scrutiny heading into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 25-26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. All of which has led some scouts to wonder what happened to the player who produced 52 points in 58 games as a 16-year-old with the Wolves two years ago, but dropped off to 50 points in 64 games in 2009-10.

Opinions vary widely on the 6-0, 192-pound centre. NHL Central Scouting had McFarland rated 10th among North American skaters in its mid-season rankings, but dropped him to 15th in its final report. The Hockey News ranks McFarland 20th overall, but you won't find his name anywhere in the top 30 list produced by International Scouting Services.

And this was a guy who, just a year ago, was considered a top-five talent for this draft. While he now appears likely to be on the board when the Ottawa Senators make the 16th selection of the first round, a growing number of folks believe he'll be available for a lot longer.

"Most people would have expected me to put up better numbers than I have and I still expect that out of myself," McFarland said near the end of his second season with the Wolves. "At the same time, I'm just trying to grow as a player, not just worry about the numbers.

"There are some things that could have gone smoother, but that's part of being a player. Things aren't always going to go great."

"I think that's something as a player that you always want against you. You always want to be the go-to guy on your own team and the guy other teams are going to want to go after. It would have been harder to have to face that earlier in my career ... But at the same time, it's made me a better hockey player. I've learned a lot from it and continued to grow and learn from it." - John McFarland
What isn't in dispute is the abundance of talent that McFarland possesses. As a 15-year-old, McFarland petitioned the OHL to be granted "exceptional player" status to join the league a year early. When that was rejected, he racked up 96 goals and 165 points in 49 games in 2007-08 with the Toronto Junior A Canadiens of the Tier II Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.

Last summer, McFarland captained Canada's entry at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament to a gold medal and earned himself an invite to Hockey Canada's final evaluation camp for the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"You learn things about yourself as a player, whether you can (play your game) in front of the best players from Russia or Sweden," McFarland said of his international experiences. "You learn a lot about yourself as a player."

NHL Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire draws a comparison between McFarland and Brenden Morrow, the heart-and-soul captain of the Dallas Stars and a member of Canada's gold-medal team at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

"(McFarland) is an excellent skater with high-end speed and agility and maybe overall, a high-skill player," said E.J. McGuire, the director of NHL Central Scouting. "(He has) a great wrist shot and he plays with an edge. He'll fight — not often — but when he does, it shows his meanness."

Ex-Wolves coach Mike Foligno, a former National Hockey League standout with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs, believes McFarland will bring more than top-end offensive skills — including speed and a killer wrist shot — to the big show.

"What will make him a dangerous NHL player is the ability to use these skills to create offence and also be a contributing factor in his defensive zone," said Foligno, the father of Senators forward Nick Foligno. "John is also a very physical player and not afraid to initiate contact.

"He has the hockey sense of an NHL player and plays better with better players around him. He strives to be the best player on the ice."