If Marc McNulty had been more consistent in his draft year, there’s no telling how high he would have been picked.
As it was, the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Prince George Cougars blueliner lasted all the way to the sixth round, 169th overall, on Sunday, where the Red Wings were happy to find themselves selecting a rangy two-way prospect with plenty of upside.
McNulty had eight goals, seven assists and 70 penalty minutes in 52 games in his first full WHL season, at times flashing his immense potential but other times doing little to set himself apart.
“A lot of nights, he just didn’t play with the intensity he needed to play with all the time,” said Red Wings scout Jeff Finley.
But when McNulty did set himself apart, he looked like a future NHLer. Although still rail-thin at this early stage in his career, McNulty jumps out at you on the ice with the amount of ice he covers in his own zone.
“He’s tall and super lanky, he’s got an incredibly long reach using a long stick, and what I like about him is, he already understands how to use his reach to his advantage,” Finley said. “He’s got a great wing-span, and he keeps guys to the outside, covering a lot of space.”
His stats line is unusual in that he had more goals than assists, but he picked up three power-play tallies and was used as a forward to screen opposing goalies when the Cougars had manpower advantages. Despite his modest totals, McNulty does have good offensive tools, including surprising ability to handle the puck.
“He’s got really good feet and really good hands for a young guy that size,” Finley said. “He moves the puck very well, he’s got some poise with the puck. Having said that, at times he overhandles it a little bit, doesn’t get it away quick enough, but I see a lot of upside in his game.”
McNulty is very much a raw project and he’ll return to Prince George — the old stomping grounds of another tall, rangy defensive project by the name of Zdeno Chara — for another two seasons as he works toward a contract.
Finley described McNulty as “intriguing” and hopes he’ll improve his consistency as he gets stronger. If he does, the Red Wings might find themselves with an effective rear-guard who can get the job at both ends of the rink.
“He just has a lot of upside,” Finley said. “Just has to learn to do things quicker and play with more urgency and intensity on a consistent basis.”