Photo credit:Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation
Bobby McMann is “hungry” to take next step after signing with Maple Leafs
By Nick Barden1 year ago
One rink is all that separates Bobby McMann from his dream of playing in the NHL.
When the 26-year-old signed with the Toronto Marlies — amidst a global pandemic two and a half years ago — there weren’t many expectations.
But now the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
McMann had a career year in the AHL which saw him break the Marlies rookie goal record, scoring 24 goals in 61 games. During all of that, he signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs which began this season.
“It’s really cool. It’s what you dream of, it’s what you’re working for your whole life.” McMann said with a huge grin during a one-on-one interview. “Hockey has been my whole life and I think it is one step closer and it just makes me that much more hungry to be there.”
The 26-year-old arrived back in Toronto in August and skated with a few full-time NHLers before the real work began in mid-September. Although McMann didn’t make the Maple Leafs out of training camp, there were still a lot of good experiences that came from it.
“There was Muzz (Jake Muzzin), Mo (Morgan Rielly) — Kampfer (David Kampf) was here. Good guys to skate with, good guys to look at their work ethic and read off of.” He said about skating in Toronto throughout August.
Being 26-years-old, McMann would be considered a ‘late bloomer’. At this point in his career, he’s too old to be a prospect, but his experience is still too small to call him a veteran.
There’s still a lot to learn and skating with adept players like Muzzin and Rielly will teach you a fair amount.
“It was really cool. They also make it fun, too.” McMann said. “You see that they’re just having fun and they love the game, they love to be there and work hard. That’s what I like to do, too, but they also are working on a lot of facets of their game and it shows why they’re such good pros and why they’ve had such success in their career.
“And I’m just trying to match that work ethic and attention to detail that they have.”
When skating with players like that — who’ve accumulated over 1000 NHL games between the two of them — occasionally they might say something that sticks out.
For McMann, what he noticed more was how they conducted themselves on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s like the habits that they have every day and the way they carry themselves is a little different. You recognize that and can kind of replicate that and understand why they do those things and the way that they do them.”
A new season usually means new goals. After a record-setting season with the Marlies and an NHL deal, it’s safe to say that the expectations have risen mightily for McMann.
Individually, though, the 26-year-old doesn’t set goals from himself. But there’s still the drive to be a better player, and he knows what’s needed of him to have a greater season than his last.
“I think not overthinking it, continuing to compete, and just have that work ethic because I think that’s how I kind of broke into it and found that early success.” Said McMann. “It’s just having that extremely hard work ethic and not worrying about scoring goals or whatever, it’s just playing a hard game and playing fast.
“And then, I think for now, it’s continuing to push myself to watch my games and to watch my tendencies and improve on what I’ve already come so far on, improve that offensive side of my game and the reads that I have.”
In shorter terms: “Just be better than I was the day before.”
When players get signed to an NHL contract and go play somewhere else, such as junior, in Europe, or down in the AHL, there are things they’re told to work on.
It could be skating, shooting, play in the defensive zone — sometimes it’s a number of articles they want the player to improve.
In McMann’s case, there are a few pieces the Maple Leafs want to see him work on.
“I think they want me to use my speed as much as possible and be physical.” The 26-year-old stated. “If I can start in the defensive zone, be defensively strong, play fast up the ice, set up the o-zone, and frustrate the defencemen on the other team, I think that’s what they want to see and just playing a fast, hard game.”
But what does Marlies head coach Greg Moore think McMann needs to do to evolve his game for the next level?
“He definitely can’t lose sight of the things that brought him success last year. He was definitely our best player at transporting the puck from top of the circles to top of the circles. With his speed, his strength, his power, he could individually break us out and go set up the o-zone which was really important for us.
“So, continuing to do that, continuing to shoot the puck — another big strength of his. And then it’s just building more layers on top of plays getting off the wall, more passing plays to set up his teammates, and just being very consistent with all of the things he does really well.”
After the serious questions, I decided to have some fun and ask McMann some lighthearted ones. After all, it’s always interesting to hear what players do in their spare time away from the rink.
What are some of things you like to do outside of the rink to get your mind off of hockey?
“Summers, I love golf. That’s a big thing for me. I do a lot of cooking, actually, during the season. I try not to order a lot of dinners, but I try to cook a lot. I make a quinoa salad with a tuna steak that’s pretty good. I make a lot of single dish pasta dishes, I like to do that. I think that’s a good focus and it keeps my mind occupied.”
Favourite pasta: “Orzo.”
Great choice, in my opinion.
Favourite Movie: “The Dark Knight.”
Imagine you’re stuck in an arena for an entire month. You’d have to practice and play games there. Who on the Marlies would you want to stay with for the entire month?
“I’d like to say Curtis Douglas, but I know he’d be too annoying after, like, day two.” McMann said with a smile. “So, I’m going to have to go with Joe Blandisi.”
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