(Photo Credit: Jay LePrete / Associated Press)
At only 5’8” and 170 pounds, Hugh McGing does not tower over many people. However, put a stick in his hand and throw him on the ice, and opponents quickly forget how tall he is. In fact, the only way they could tower over him at all is if they can catch him first.
McGing, 20 years old in 7/2018, was the 158th pick of the 2018 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues; he had gone two previous draft years without his name called. An upcoming junior at the University of Western Michigan, he was the team’s co-MVP in the 2017-2018 season, alongside teammate Dawson DiPietro. He was also invited to the Team USA World Junior camp. In 75 games over two seasons, he put up 17 goals and 35 assists, for 52 points (9 goals, 21 assists for 30 points in 2017-2018 alone). In the last five weeks of the 2017-2018 season, he played with a broken hand, with only pain killers and prayers to keep him in the game.
His focus is not only on the ice, but in the books as well; McGing was named to the NCHC All-Academic team, and is a Distinguished Scholar Athlete, meaning he had to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher, and complete one academic year. He did so in one of the hardest fields to maintain that GPA: in biomedical sciences. He was a 2018 nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, where winners include Paul Kariya, Chris Drury, Johnny Gaudreau, and Jack Eichel. In 2018, Ryan Donato was a runner up for the same award. Another 2018 nominee for the award? Fellow prospect and camp teammate Mitch Reinke, from Michigan Tech.
In late 6/2018 at the Blues’s Prospect Camp at Ice Zone, Hazelwood, MO, McGing proved he is one high octane skater. He lapped his teammates easily, and used speed to tear away from opponents larger than him. Consistently, he hounded the puck relentlessly. His spatial awareness was spot on: through traffic, multiple behind the back passes to his teammates driving to the net resulted in prime opportunities for goals. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, sneaking around and almost underneath opponents. If he could not go around them or under them, his soft hands created spaces for him to make passes. His wrist shot snaps instantaneously, and his edges on his skates were very tight and crisp. He fought in corners and was seldom overwhelmed. I watched him doing one of the drills, in which he had to keep a puck moving between his skates by kicking it back and forth from one to the next. Not only was he able to do that, but the puck never seemed to pause from skate to skate, a sign of excellent foot-eye coordination and balance. He also multitasks well. The same drill evolved into one puck bounced between the skates, and one puck on his stick, and very few times did he miss on either task. He also had chemistry with everyone around him; thrown on a line with local talents Michael Davies and Josh Dunne, or fellow 2018 draftee Tyler Tucker, McGing adapted and played off all of them very well.
To be more effective than he already is, McGing will need to put on more muscle. He will need the upper body strength to fight off 200-plus pound defenders when he digs in the corners. His legwork needs improvement to not only maintain the speeds that he skates, but to build up the endurance to last around anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes a game, every two to three days, throughout an 82-game season.
Put on a line where he can succeed, McGing is comparable in size and speed with Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks, with the fortitude, puckhounding and playmaking of Jaden Schwartz. I believe, with time in the AHL and polish, McGing may be one of the biggest steals of the draft, period.
(Sources: WMUBroncos.com, Elite-Prospects.com)