McClean, 22, joined the Black Cats from Derry City in August and has impressed in the reserves – prompting an immediate elevation into the first-team squad.
The talented wide man is quick and athletic and has shown little fear training among more experienced players. Bruce believes he has a big future.
He said: “He has done very well in the two or three games we have seen – so well we have put him on the bench.
“He is naturally left sided, he is six foot one and he runs up and down the left side all day long.
“If he makes an impact like David Meyler has then we will be delighted.
“It is still early days, but he has done very well and let’s hope that continues.”