There has been a giant sighting in Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia.
His name is John McLean and he’s a 6-foot-9 goaltender who Vancouver invited to its annual prospect rite of passage into hockey adulthood known as development camp.
The self-described “late bloomer” is 25 years old and hopes the growth of the tall goaltender can help with his dream of trying to make the NHL.
McLean never really had a goaltending role model growing up. That’s because most netminders were short. They weren’t the cat-like behemoths that man the net in NHL games this day and age.
He can now look to the likes of the 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop and the 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne for style pointers.
We chatted about Eagan, Minnesota native about his height and his ability to man the net. Last season with the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the Southern Professional Hockey League he had a 3.54 goals against average and .895 save percentage in three games.
His best collegiate year at Division-III Gustavus Adolphus College came in 2013-14 with a 1.96 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
Q: Did you ever have trouble finding equipment?
MCLEAN: Sure, I’ve had problems since I hit my growth spurt. Going through Reebok, they’ve just been so mind blown of, ‘How do we make a chest protector for this guy? How do you make skates when …’ I have a size-15 shoe so they just take a trace of my foot and made me a skate. My pads, they just make into the biggest length possible. It’s really nice, the new NHL rule is they make pads according to the player’s height now. That will work out to my advantage. I’ll be able to get a bigger pad next year and I’ve just kind of struggled a little bit with different stuff growing up. There’s a shoe and hockey repair store in St. Paul called George’s Shoe and Skate Repair and they’ve done a lot of things for me in the past by cutting apart old chest protectors and sewing them on to make sure they fit my body.
What are you looking to get out of Canucks development camp?
What I’m looking to gain is I’ve never really had interest from the NHL level before and I’m just really thankful for the opportunity that I have here just to show people that I’m a late bloomer and show them that I really am 6-foot-9 and I just really want to make a good impression and show my work ethic and my character on and off the ice.
What do you mean show them that you really are 6-foot-9?
A lot of people they don’t really, I’m not sure they believe it. Or, ‘Can this guy really play? Can he move if he’s that big?’ I just want to show people that I can and that’s pretty much it.
What’s your style?
I really just get my body in front of the net. I wouldn’t say I’m a butterfly goalie or standup goalie. I just play my own way a little bit like Ben Bishop. Sometimes I use my flexibility to my advantage and sometimes I stay deep in the net and make myself as big as possible.
Growing up I wasn’t able to mimic or take a goalie’s game and use it as my own. The last couple of years watching Ben Bishop and Pekka Rinne and Scott Darling, I’m able to pick up some of the things they do and use it to my advantage.
What ‘things’ have you been able to pick up from bigger goaltenders?
Especially Scott Darling. He really just stays between the post. You won’t see him flopping all over the place, which is fine – to be really athletic sometimes – but you really just want to use as little movements as possible and use your size to your advantage and he does a really good job of that. I’ve been watching a lot of film on him and watching a lot of film of myself just to make sure I don’t overreact and I stay square to the puck.
What other sports did you play growing up?
I always played hockey. I grew eight inches my freshman year of high school. No one expected me to be as tall as I am. I just played hockey growing up. My dad played hockey at St. Cloud State and I really didn’t play another sport besides golf.
It was 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-4 and then I grew an inch every single year after that until I hit 6-foot-9.
I was a goalie from about eight years old. I just stuck with it. I had lots of growing pains and lots of transition, because when I hit my peak height I was probably 30 or 40 pounds less than I am right now. I really had to fill out my body and work on the physical side of that as well.
Why do you think you’re a late bloomer? The filling out from a weight perspective?
For sure. I was very uncoordinated. It took a long time. I had different coaches working with me just working different techniques.
Lots of one-on-one training, lots of juggling, lots of weights just lots of stuff to focus on me and developing into my own body. It was a long process, but I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s finally starting to pay off.
What are your overall goals?
I’m just hoping to get better every single day and I just want to play for whoever wants me. That’s what I’m working for, I’m working for a contract.
Do people joke about your height?
I mean, I think everyone is a little shocked at first, but everyone here is super welcoming and no one really talks about it too much. We’re all here for the same reasons – which is to get better and we want to make this team, so they just want to treat me like any other guy. It’s more the spectators or people who don’t play hockey are very shocked and drawn to my height, which is cool.
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