An OHL prospect who played in Switzerland for the 2020–21 season, McTavish had one of the most interesting run-ups to the draft. One of the purest goal scorers in the draft, he has an incredible set of tools in his arsenal that will make him highly sought after. The Calgary Flames have struggled to score over the last couple of seasons, so selecting a player like McTavish may be exactly what the Flames need should he still be available at 12. He’s ranked 14th on TWC’s consolidated draft rankings, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on the board when the Flames are up. Let’s break it all down.
Who is Mason McTavish?
Standing 6’2″ and weighing in over 200 pounds, McTavish has the size and skill to be a productive NHL forward in this league. He was born in Switzerland where his father—former Flame Dale McTavish—played parts of his professional hockey career. While McTavish did play this season in Switzerland, he was on loan from the Peterborough Petes, and unless he makes the NHL next season, he will have to go back to the OHL next season due to the rules of the CHL/NHL Agreement.
Mason McTavish’s on-ice production
Unlike many prospects in this year’s draft, McTavish has played in four different leagues in the last three seasons, which makes it harder to judge his progression. Here are his numbers below.
|2018-19||D-2||HEO U18||Pembroke Lumber Kings U18 AAA||41||47||32||79||N/A|
|2018-19||D-2||CCHL||Pembroke Lumber Kings||5||3||4||7||N/A|
|2020-21||D+0||Swiss League||EHC Olten (loan)||13||9||2||11||N/A|
Before joining the OHL, McTavish put up a boatload of points in the U18 as a 15/16-year-old in the Hockey East Ontario (HEO). Clearly too good for that league, he moved over to the Central Canadian Hockey League (CCHL), where he still ended up scoring over a point-per-game, albeit with the small sample size.
He was drafted fifth overall in the OHL Draft, behind potential 2022 first-overall pick Shane Wright, and four other draft eligible prospects. He didn’t slow down by much in the OHL either, showing a strong offensive touch in his rookie season, where he finished second among U17 skaters that year.
With the OHL shutdown this season, McTavish was loaned to the EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest men’s league in Switzerland—and coincidentally the same league where Flames prospect Glenn Gawdin was loaned. He also played alongside fellow draft eligible OHLer Brennan Othmann, and put up 11 points in 13 regular season games.
McTavish also had seven points in four playoff games before heading back across the pond to participate in the U18 Tournament. As Captain Canada at the tournament, McTavish put up 11 points in seven games, good for sixth in the tournament. Not bad for a best-on-best tournament.
Between this tournament and his incredible play in Switzerland against older men, McTavish was ranked as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting.
Mason McTavish’s strengths
McTavish is an incredible scorer and he is one of the best at doing so in this year’s draft. He has a hard, accurate shot that can beat goalies cleanly, but he also has the intelligence to know when to delay his shot as needed to force goalies out of position. As a big player, he can force his way to the front of the net to get tip-ins, rebounds, and greasy goals, like this one:
He has a way of finding himself in the right position at the right time, with a combination of size, skill and vision that makes him very very dangerous.
While he is great at putting the puck in the net, McTavish is also a great playmaker, able to make crisp tape-to-tape passes that create chances for his teammates. His hockey IQ is quite high, and he is able to read the defenders and know where his teammates are. In this play below, McTavish is able to keep the puck away from the first defender using a combination of size and speed, then outlast the second defender on a two-on-one before feeding Dylan Guenther for an incredible feed.
As good as he is offensively, McTavish is also decent defensively. He is able to backcheck and stop teams from breaking out through the neutral zone. When on defence, he uses his body quite well, unafraid to get into corners to retrieve pucks. He can also make very good outlet passes, turning the puck back up ice to create chances.
Mason McTavish’s area’s of improvement
While he is very good, the biggest area of improvement for McTavish is his skating, which can look clunky at times. He’s not the fastest player on the ice, which can be a hinderance for him, especially as he progresses and the game gets faster. That said, scouts have noted that he has a lot of the fundamentals to improve this, with strength and a low centre of gravity that can help him improve his stride.
The other area of concern is that sometimes his defensive play can be lackadaisical. He has been caught standing still while on defence, waiting for the puck to come to him rather than going out to get it. This is something that can be improved with time, and his offensive ability more than makes up for it, but it will be something teams look out for at the draft.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are a number of questions as to whether he can become an NHL centreman, or is better suited to play on the wing. If he is to be a centre, he will need to improve both his defensive game and especially his footspeed, but he is a decent faceoff taker currently. Whether he develops into a centre or a winger, scouts really seem to like him, and his stock has only risen in the past season.
Fit with the Flames
You can never have too many top-six players, and McTavish would just add to the Flames’ depth, whether as a centre or on the wing. The Flames are stocked with left shot wingers, with Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Andrew Mangiapane all more comfortable on the left side.
That being said, the Flames do need more depth down the middle with Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund being the team’s current top-three. If the Flames elect to move any of them, or if they lose one to injury, the team is incredibly weak in that position. If McTavish can develop into a top centre as a part of their prospect system, and especially if he can develop into a two-way option—which scouts think he can—he would be a great fit in Calgary.
Is a left shot winger the most pressing need? Absolutely not. But if the Flames see him available at the 12 spot, he is absolutely worth the pick and many teams would slot him in as the best available player. His potential is there and the risk of him not turning into at least a serviceable NHL forward is very low.
A low-risk, high reward centre that projects to be a top-six player is never a bad pick for any team, and if he’s available when the Flames make their first-round selection, he is absolutely worth looking into. McTavish likely needs at least another season in the OHL and as well as a season or so in the AHL before he can crack the NHL, but like marinating meats, it is always worth the wait.
Projection: Top-six centre or left winger
Featured image created with Venngage.