Columbus Blue Jacket Prospect Watch: Hunter McKown

Signed by the Blue Jackets as an undrafted college free agent last spring, Hunter McKown is quietly putting together a solid season with the AHL's Cleveland Monsters.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

In a perfect world, Hunter McKown would have walked straight into the NHL and been a difference maker for the Blue Jackets last season. He got a chance to do just that, but it was fairly obvious from the offset that he wasn't ready to play at that level.

This season, he's been skating for the team's AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters. He's been a difference maker there, even if his offensive numbers aren't quite where we hoped they would be.

Through 42 games, McKown sits 10th on the team in scoring with 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists). As a true NHL prospect, those numbers might not jump off the page. But McKown is a rookie, playing his first full season of professional hockey. He's also playing and developing as a center, which is not easy to do.

The Jackets snatched McKown off of the free agent list as soon as his collegiate season expired last year. Hunter finished tied for 8th in the country with 21 goals with Colorado College, which earned him attention and a pro contract.

He does have a big shot, which should lead to his share of goals at any level. It's his overall game that makes him attractive as a future NHL center, however.

McKown competes hard on the puck in all three zones, able to pick the pocket of an opposing player and go the other way; or use his body to separate player from puck.

He's a cerebral player defensively, often working himself into the right position to support and win the puck for his side. I think he could turn into a matchup nightmare for other teams because of his ability to be strong in transition against any style of game.

His shot makes him a threat to score from nearly anywhere in the offensive zone. While there's still work to be done here, McKown is a good true center prospect for a team that needs all the help it can get in that position.

I'm not sure if he'll have the kind of upside that will allow him to play in the top-six, at least long term. But, his willingness to compete at both ends of the rink, combined with his shot, make him a fairly safe bet to play in the bottom-six at some point.

He should finish out the year in Cleveland, where he can be a real difference maker and (hopefully) gain confidence offensively. The Monsters should be all in for a playoff run this spring, and McKown is certainly part of their found success.