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2021 NHL Draft: Mason McTavish has steal potential

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The Canadian forward is surely going to make a fanbase happy.

Peterborough Petes v Oshawa Generals Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Mason McTavish scores a lot of goals. Like a lot.

No matter what league he has appeared in during his last crazy three years, he’s always scored more goals than he’s assisted, always just being one of those guys that scores piles of goals and doesn’t look back. McTavish was one of those lucky Canadian prospects that have been able to take their talents overseas and stay fresh in a European league — the 18-year-old was loaned to EHC Olten of the second division in Switzerland, where he scored nine(!) goals and just two assists in 13 games.

That experience of professional hockey led him to captaining Team Canada in the IIHF World Under-18 Championships, where he scored 5 goals and 11 points in 7 games.

McTavish just seems like one of those players that will come at the opponent, never stopping; an unrelenting force attacking any defender and is able to create his own space on the ice. As with any prospect that has NHL-ready size, there’s the concern that he has been able to bully his opponents around at the junior level and score more points by sheer physical dominance than actual skill. Perhaps the experience in Switzerland can change that presumption — McTavish had teammates as old as 36 years old — and scoring almost a goal a game at the professional level can peak some interest in the mid-first round.

If he’s able to continue some semblance of his current goalscoring rate in the system of whichever team drafts him on July 23, then he’s surely going to be a threat on the ice.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#2 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

#5 by Elite Prospects

#9 by The Athletic/Corey Pronman

#15 by FCHockey

#29 by Dobber Prospects

What Scouts Are Saying

McTavish was good in Switzerland’s second-tier pro league, with the OHL season canceled, and great at the U18 worlds for Canada. McTavish has always shown he can score — and in numbers. He can attack defenses in numerous ways in the offensive zone with his NHL-caliber skill, vision and shot. He is a creative player who tries to make things happen. He has the shot to score from range versus pros and is very good at creating around the net. He works hard enough to win a lot of puck battles. The main flaw in McTavish’s skill set is his skating, as he will be OK in the NHL in that regard but will struggle to create separation. In a sentence, McTavish projects as a strong top-six forward in the NHL, a second-line center or a low-end first-line wing.

-Corey Pronman, The Athletic

While watching Mason McTavish continue to develop his game, the main thing that catches the eye is his impressive set of offensive tools. In his first ten games with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, he was able to contribute five goals and seven points on the scoresheet, but the offense he generated came in a variety of ways. His toolbox is highlighted by a bomb of a shot, which he can get off quickly and accurately from anywhere in various scenarios. However, the most impressive part of his game is his ability to put himself in high danger areas in the offensive zone. Once he is there, he uses his NHL-ready frame and strong offensive instincts to generate scoring chances for himself and his teammates. McTavish shows flashes of brilliance in transition as well, using his powerful stride and stickhandling ability to push the play forward quickly. However, these moments come less often than you would hope for, as consistency in his game seems to be the major piece waiting to develop. If he can contribute more to his team’s defensive zone play and transition to offense on a consistent basis, McTavish projects as a solid top 6 scoring winger that could also be a lethal force on the powerplay.

-Jacob Barker, Dobber Prospects

Since coming over to Switzerland, McTavish has played at both center and wing. In my opinion, McTavish looks stronger on the wing than at center. When McTavish is on the wing, you see his gritty side. In the defensive and offensive zone, you see him be a pest along the boards. But, when he is at center, his role expands of course and can’t be as aggressive along the boards. He could still be gritty and deliver open ice, but I haven’t seem him deliver many open ice hits. In addition, his skating in transition is not where I would want it to be. I’ll touch on this more in the skating section, but he doesn’t deploy a length extension when in transition. If he works on his stride and adopts a better power stride, then I can see him being a good fit at center in an NHL lineup.

When you are watching McTavish, the zone that you most notice him in is the offensive zone. McTavish constantly is looking for the opposition to pull closer towards the perimeter. He looks for opportunities where his teammates are controlling the puck in low danger. McTavish wants the puck in low danger and the opposition playing tight at the perimeter. He wants that because the opposition is not paying close attention to the slot. So, he picks the moment when the opposition is coming closer to the point as the moment where he skates up to the high slot and gives his team an open man close to the net.

In the defensive zone, McTavish is strong on the back-check. When deployed on the wing, he shows off his physical grittiness and can be a hand full for wingers and defenders running the cycle along the boards. But, when he is utilized at center, he plays more of an insurance support role and won’t appear to be as gritty. In general, his positioning is strong. He will pay close attention to puck movement along the boards and will stand in low danger to keep his opponents further out. With that being said, McTavish isn’t timid and will slide towards a defender at the point to block low danger shot attempts.

-Smaht Scouting

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.

-Khalid Keshavjee, The Win Column

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

Like a glove. McTavish could possibly just be a Jordan Greenway replacement down the line — especially if the Minnesota Wild end up losing him to the expansion draft — but his size and goalscoring ability is tough to pass up.

Any contributor on offense is welcome and it’s just a bonus that the 18-year-old from Ottawa, Ont. likes to bash some bodies and create some significant space on the ice via physicality, opening up possible scoring chances for his teammates. If he is a Minnesota prospect by the end of the first day, then considering that he will be joining a core with Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, and Kirill Kaprizov, that’s a quartet of very physical offensive contributors. I love it.

Speaking of the Wild selecting McTavish...

Could The Wild Get Him?

It honestly might be a real possibility if GM Bill Guerin wants to trade up a couple spots — which should only happen if a top-tier talent is dropping significantly — or if McTavish is a prospect that drops into their laps a la Rossi last year.

Considering that some prospect sites had him ranked as low as 29th overall, then with the Wild owning the 21st and 25th overall picks next month it can certainly happen. Especially with the influence of the pandemic draft year and the general blandness of this draft class — a plateau of talent that is simply in a handful of tiers — who truly knows what teams are thinking and McTavish can be selected by Minnesota. Sure why not?

A Minnesota Relation

McTavish being a physical winger that can score some damn goals reminds me of a peak, right after signing in Minnesota, Zach Parise.

With a powerful shot that can snap past opposing goaltenders and the inability to get bullied among the boards, even by players taller than him, it just feels like the easy comparison. And as always with these comparisons, it is just for style and I’m not saying McTavish will have a career where he will eventually be able to return home to Ottawa (if he isn’t selected by the Senators) and sign a very long contract with a very high cap hit.

Besides that, it just feels like two players that share similar qualities.

2021 NHL Draft Board

  1. Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
  4. Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  5. Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  6. Simon Edvinsson — D, Frolunda (SHL)
  7. William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  8. Kent Johnson — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  9. Jesper Wallstedt — G, Luleå HF (SHL)