Ask any NHL scout which prospect rose the most during the 2020 NHL draft season and you’ll hear Jack Quinn’s name quite a bit.
It’s not exactly a mystery as to why. A late 2001-born forward, Quinn saw a 57-point increase in offensive output last season with a 52-goal, 89-point campaign in 62 games. Quinn’s 34 even-strength goals were the second most among draft-eligible prospects (Carter Savoie had 35 in Junior A) and was near the top in every other major statistical category. Sure, he was overshadowed by Marco Rossi in Ottawa, but Quinn showed as much scoring upside as any 18-year-old in the world.
Quinn was one of 46 players chosen for Canada’s selection camp that opened up in Red Deer earlier this week. The camp began just a day after Quinn signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres, who selected him eighth overall back in October. The timing was perfect as Quinn could use the extra boost after not getting a chance to skate in a competitive game this season.
“It’s a bit of a different year,” Quinn said. “With all the protocols and the stuff we’ve had to adapt to in regards to COVID-19, it’s a challenge.”
The extended training camp gives Quinn an opportunity to find his game again in what should be a competitive venture. Of the 46 players at camp, 27 of them were selected in the first round of the NHL draft over the past two years, and that doesn’t include the potential inclusion of Alexis Lafreniere, either.
“It’s better for everyone that the camp is longer,” he added. “It gives everyone a chance to get their legs under them and show their game over a period of time.”
Making Canada’s world junior team, though, is a whole new challenge. Like all OHLers, Quinn has sat on the sidelines for the past few months throughout the pandemic. Quinn isn’t considered a lock to make Canada’s roster by any means – in fact, many consider him an outsider. Quinn’s a proven goal-scorer as shown by his 52-goal campaign in 2019-20, but for some scouts, his all-around game isn’t fully developed just yet.
“I was shocked he went before Rossi,” an Ontario-based scout said. “He would have been good around, say, pick 11 or 12. But eight seemed like a stretch. But we know how good is he with the puck, it’s all about pushing his game to the limit now. This camp should help.”
That’s something Quinn has worked on during the time off.
“I improved my skating a lot this summer,” said Quinn, who mentioned working with former Sabres development coach. Pat Malloy. “Developed my legs and explosiveness, more stable on my feet. I also continued to work on my strength and stick-handling.”
It helps that Canada’s head coach, Andre Tourigny, is the same bench boss Quinn has with the 67s. That familiarity should help, but Quinn still has high expectations from one of his OHL stars.
“I’m hoping for a guy who competes,” Tourigny said. “Jack is a helluva player. I know him well and know what he can do. I could feel the nerves and his emotion (early in camp). But he will settle down and get more comfortable. He’s a super-smart kid.”
Quinn has never represented Canada in international competition, so he doesn’t have the international résumé behind him that others do. But Quinn’s improvement over the past 18 months was enough to get him on Hockey Canada’s radar and become a top 10 pick in the NHL. But with 27 first-round picks at camp, being a first-rounder doesn’t mean a whole lot compared to other countries, so Quinn has to have a fantastic showing, all things considered.
That begins with Canada’s split-squad exhibition games over the weekend. On Thursday, Quinn skated alongside phenom Shane Wright and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Suzuki on the “third” line and that could be a perfect group for Quinn to showcase his talents. None of the three are locks to make Canada, but Wright is one of the most promising prospects in hockey and Suzuki is no slouch when it comes to setting up plays. With Quinn being the goal-scorer he is, that could really benefit him.
Now, it’s up to Quinn to prove the Sabres made the right choice in selecting him, and Team Canada for giving him a chance.