John McFarland’s story is a bit intriguing. He petitioned to the OHL to grant him the “exceptional player” status that had only previously been given to John Tavares, a clause that would allow him to play in the OHL at age 15. His petition was rejected though, as they stated he was not enough of an exceptional player to grant him this rare status.
Nonetheless, scouts are still raving over the prospect of possibly drafting McFarland, a center from Richmond Hill, Ontario. With the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in 2007-08, he dominated the league, scoring 96 goals and 69 assists for 165 points in just 49 games. His incredible talent made the Sudbury Wolves pick him with the first pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection.
Not only that, but in his first month of Major Junior hockey, he won the Rookie of the Month award. He scored 52 points in 58 games in his rookie season, then repeated a 50-point performance this season, scoring 50 points in 64 games.
"He has all the tools [to be a great NHL player],” Sports Illustrated says. “Good frame, quick feet, hard shot and he anticipates the play well. But he hasn't committed to his play away from the puck...and maybe there are some other issues that will be addressed as he matures. You wonder if he'll ever put it all together."
The 6-foot, 200-pound center agreed, knowing his stats should be better.
"Most people would have expected me to put up a little better numbers than I have and I still expect that out of myself," McFarland said to NHL.com. "At the same time I'm just trying to grow as a player, not just worry about the numbers. I think there's some things that could have gone smoother, but that's part of being a player, things aren't always going to go great."
At number 10 on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, McFarland knows that there will be a lot of pressure on him. However, coach Mike Foligno believes that the best is still to come for McFarland.
"He's now starting to be the player we thought he could be, a complete player," Foligno said in an interview with the NHL. "John was a very offensive player, didn't commit to the defensive side of the game, but he never had to because the teams he was on could just outscore opponents.
"But in our league you have to be strong in both ends of the ice and be committed in both ends of the ice. He's starting to play that game now, he's starting to be accountable defensively. His work at both ends of the rink is better. There are parts of the game that are much improved and he's been one of our most productive players.
"What we're trying to do with John is help develop a player that when he gets drafted, the team that drafts him will have a player ready to step in and play," Foligno said. "We don't want John going to the NHL with any weaknesses."
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.