John McFarland was not deemed to be ‘exceptional’ enough last year, but the Sudbury Wolves are intent on giving him the chance to prove he is just that over the next couple of seasons.
McFarland, who was turned down in his request to play in the Ontario League as a 15-year-old last year because of an arcane Hockey Canada provision where a young and talented player’s fate rests with a three-person panel, will get his chance to go first overall in the OHL draft when the Sudbury Wolves select him in May. The Wolves will pick first after finishing dead last in the OHL during the regular season, which ended last weekend.
McFarland’s agent, Mark Guy, has already spoken to Wolves’ owner Mark Burgess and Burgess has indicated the Wolves are prepared to take McFarland first overall. The two sides will meet this weekend at the OHL Cup in Toronto, which features the top 20 minor midget teams in Ontario in a bid for the provincial championship, and it’s expected they’ll come to terms on a contract shortly after. McFarland’s Toronto Jr. Canadiens enter the tournament as the top-ranked team in Ontario.
With junior players there is always the concern they might not report to the team that selects them, but Guy said McFarland is looking forward to joining the rebuilding Wolves next season. McFarland, who has drawn comparisons to John Tavares, will be eligible for the NHL draft in 2010.
Jr. Canadiens coach Dan Cameron said McFarland has always had eye-popping skills and this season filled out to a solid 6-feet, 195 pounds. He has led the Jr. Canadiens with 90 goals and 162 points to go with 167 penalty minutes in 69 games this season. In bantam hockey last season, McFarland scored 160 goals.
“He’s a very good puck-handler and a great skater and he has good skills,” Cameron said. “He doesn’t finesse people so much as just blow around them.”
But Cameron, who was against McFarland playing in the OHL this season, said the area of his game where McFarland has made his most significant strides were in maturity and leadership.
“He’s a great leader,” Cameron said of his captain. “Before our last game in the (Greater Toronto Hockey League) playoffs, he held a players’ only meeting and I got some great feedback from the other players on how he laid everything out.
“At one practice this year, a coach from another team came to see me and I was standing talking to him off the ice for about 10 minutes. I looked over his shoulder and there was John running drill after drill.”
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