OHL Prospect Report : Jay McClement

By Bob Chery
If anyone were to write a textbook or make a video of how a
young prospect should play the game of hockey, especially in
this era of a defence-first NHL, they could do worse than use
the Brampton Battalion’s Jay McClement as an example. The 18
year-old native of Kingston, Ontario has exhibited hockey smarts
and attention to defensive detail not often seen in a player
this young, combined with a steadily improving offensive game.

DEFENSIVE ZONE: When he’s not actually going behind the
goal-line to bump an opponent off the puck and gain possession,
McClement always, ALWAYS lends puck support in his own zone.

He will follow the cycle along the boards and take up the
defenceman’s position in front of the net. When he sees that the
opposing forwards have been tied up, he will be the third man in
and gain possession of the puck. Earlier in the season Jay was a
very conservative, safety-first player who would dump the puck
out of danger into the neutral zone. As the season has
progressed, he has started to make outlet passes, work the give
and go, and make the rush out of the zone. On occasion he has
calmly taken the puck behind his own net to start the transition
game, as if he had been playing defence for the past ten years.

When playing high in the zone or covering the point on the
penalty-kill, McClement does a good job of making an obstacle of
himself. He will either block the shot or force the point-man to
shoot around him, ensuring that the point-blast does not become
a shot on goal.


NEUTRAL ZONE:
Because Jay is often the catalyst that transitions
the Battalion from defence to offence, he uses his speed through
the neutral zone to catch up to the offensive foray as the third
man in. When the other team has the puck, he builds up speed to
provide aggressive puck pursuit on the forecheck, which he
combines with an anticipation that has him moving in the
direction of the intended pass a split-second before it is
released. This leads to a few interceptions and many broken
plays.


OFFENSIVE ZONE:
The operative words here are intelligent and
conservative, but McClement’s offensive game has improved as the
year has progressed. In attending two London-Battalion games in
Brampton this year, we have identical 29-game splits with which
to map his progress:

FIRST 29 GAMES: 12G 9A 21PTS +3 8PPG 23 PIM
NEXT 29 GAMES: 13G 10A 23PTS +8 4PPG 30 PIM

Earlier in the season, Jay showed basic functionality on
offence. When he crossed center-ice he would usually dump and
chase. His puck-handling was adequate, but when pressured he
would opt to dump it deep, even from the half-boards, rather
than turn it over. His goals, mostly on the power-play, came
from in close, either deflections or rebounds from standing in
front of the net, or smartly timing his arrival in the low slot
just as the point-man was winding up for the slapper.

Now Jay is showing more confidence with the puck. He isn’t an
automatic to dump it in anymore, and while he’s not beating
anyone 1-on-1, he can come in off the wing, protect the puck,
and play keepaway. He’s doing other textbook things such as
getting off a quick release, and shooting for the top corners
against butterfly goaltenders. Both his shot and release should
not be confused with Mike Bossy, but he shows an understanding
that he has to be quick, and he has to shoot for where the
openings are.

He shows other subtle understandings of how to play the game.
While positioned in front of the opposition goal, he won’t stand
right in the middle, but rather off to one post so as to get a
jump should the puck be thrown around the boards behind the net.
He can withstand the hits that come with cycling the puck.
Sustained pressure in 5-on-5 situations that weren’t there
earlier this year are now more prevalent when McClement’s line
is on the ice. Increased scoring at even-strength has improved
his plus/minus numbers.

Jay looks like a future Selke candidate in the NHL, and if his
offensive game continues to grow, he could provide more than
just defence at that level. He could possibly step into the NHL
next year ala Manny Maholtra as a checking-line center, but
after seeing what happened with Manny’s development, hopefully
that will not happen.

Central Scouting had McClement ranked 11th in the OHL in their
mid-season rankings while I had him 9th in my November 15th
report. At this stage of the season I have moved him up to 6th,
behind the Big Two at center, and the Big Three on the
blue-line.

OTHER NOTES………. A rule change that may require some
tinkering is the one requiring automatic game-misconducts and
two-game suspensions for combatants involved in a second fight
after the first one has broken out. While Brampton’s Jay
Harrison defended teammate Raffi Torres and laid a beating on
Ottawa’s Lance Galbraith, fringe player Sebastian Savage
provoked a fight with McClement. Oddly enough Savage did get an
extra
minor penalty, but for roughing, not for instigating. McClement
basically had no choice but to defend himself. Of course this
rule is necessary to prevent a wide-scale brawl from breaking
out, but the opportunity is there for a fringe player on the ice
to goad a better player from the other team off the ice for the
rest of the game (not to mention the suspension). There should
be some discretion allowed on the part of the referees in these
instances.


YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE GOT ‘TIL IT’S GONE.
Seldom mentioned
prospect Andrew Archer of the Guelph Storm, a 6’4” d-man with
good mobility, was matched up against an Erie line of Brad Boyes
at center, and 6’5” twin towers Nikita Alexeev and Chris Berti
on the wings. The Storm jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks in part
to Archer’s containment of the big bodies in and around his own
goal. After a shoulder injury forced him out of the last two
periods, Erie mounted their comeback. The first goal came on a
power-play after diminutive Guelph d-man Kevin Dallman was
flagged for obstructing one of the mountains, and later Alexeev
barreled to the net uncontested to cut the deficit to one-goal.
The Storm however managed to hang on, escaping with a 5-4 win
that saw them a man short for the final 1:46. Archer, with a
grand total of one point so far this season, is an important cog
in the Guelph scheme of things.