The top of this year’s draft class has frequently included names such as forwards Matt Beniers, William Eklund, Kent Johnson, and Dylan Guenther, defensemen Owen Power, Brandt Clarke, and Luke Hughes, and even goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. One name that wasn’t mentioned as often as these other players was center Mason McTavish. This player saw his draft stock rise after a strong season on loan in Switzerland. He was also a top performer and captain for Canada’s U18 team at the World Championships where they captured a Gold Medal. This profile will take a closer look at Mason McTavish to see what he has to offer as a potential top 5 draft selection.
Who is Mason McTavish?
According to his Elite Prospects profile, Mason McTavish is a 6’2”, 207 lbs. left-handed center. He was born on January 30, 2003 in Zurich, Switzerland but his Ontario Hockey League profile notes that his hometown is Carp, Ontario, Canada. His father Dale McTavish, a right wing, had a brief NHL career of 9 games with the Calgary Flames in 1996-97. After that he spent 14 seasons in Europe, 4 of them in Finland and 10 in Switzerland, where Mason was born. Dale’s time in Europe was very productive as he put up 95 goals and 60 assists for 155 points in 182 SM-liiga games in Finland as well as 188 goals and 190 assists for 378 points in 361 NLA games in Switzerland. He also represented Canada 19 times across 5 competitions for the Spengler Cup, notably winning it in 2007.
Going back to Mason’s Elite Prospects profile, we can see that McTavish was always a standout player prior to entering the OHL. In 2016-17 he spent most of this season with the Ottawa Valley Titans U14 AAA team where he was 3rd on the team in scoring with 27 goals and 20 assists for 47 points in 27 games. He led the team in scoring in the playoffs that season with 13 goals and 9 assists for 22 points in 10 games. He briefly played with the U15 team where he had 3 goals and one assists in 5 games.
In 2017-18 he transitioned to the U15 team with a breakout season. McTavish posted 49 goals and 34 assists for 83 points in 30 games. That not only led the team but far eclipsed the 2nd highest scorer, Stuart Rolofs, who had 47 points in 30 games. Those 83 points also gave McTavish the league lead in scoring. His 17 goals and 6 assists for 23 points in 11 playoff games would carry the team to a championship. He even made 4 appearances for the Pembroke Lumber Kings U18 AAA team where he had 2 goals and 3 assists.
In 2018-19, he would join the Pembroke Lumber Kings U18 AAA full time where he put up 47 goals and 32 assists for 79 points in 41 games. He led the team in scoring by 19 points and was tied with fellow 2021 draft eligible Connor Lockhart for the league lead in scoring. He was once again a strong performer in the playoffs with 7 goals and 8 assists for 15 points in 8 games as his team won the championship. He earned numerous awards that season as HEO Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Top Prospect. He even earned a call-up to the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canada Hockey League where he had 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 games. I should note that his father Dale was the franchise owner for Pembroke from 2013 to 2019 and spent the 2018-19 season coaching Mason as an assistant for the U18 team and the GM/Head Coach for the CCHL team. It certainly seems like Dale’s impressive career in Europe has allowed him to pass along some great instruction to his son. Mason also represented Team Ontario at the 2019 Canada Winter Games where his 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 games helped the team win a Silver Medal. Mason would end the season by being selected 5th overall by the Peterborough Petes in the OHL Priority Selection Draft.
In 2019-20, McTavish enjoyed a productive draft-1 season with Peterborough. He had 29 goals and 13 assists for 42 points in 57 games which was good for 6th on the team in scoring. Among his fellow peers in their draft-1 seasons, his 42 points led the group in scoring. Fellow 2021 draft eligible, Francesco Pinelli had 41 points in 59 games for 2nd place. For this strong season, McTavish was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team. He was also an alternate captain for the Canada White U17 team at the World U17 Hockey Challenge where he had 2 goals and an assist in 6 games.
This past season, McTavish was one of the fortunate OHL players that was able to play competitive hockey in their draft season. Due to being born in Switzerland, McTavish holds a Swiss player license and was able to go out on loan to EHC Olten of the Swiss League (SL) which is the 2nd tier of hockey in Switzerland. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic has this in-depth article on what challenges McTavish faced in this unprecedented season. He put up 9 goals and 2 assists for 11 points in 13 games. In the playoffs he stepped up with 2 goals and 5 assists in 4 games. His 0.85 points per game rate led all U18 players in the SL with 2nd place Brennan Othmann, a EHC Olten teammate and also 2021 draft eligible, putting up a 0.47 points per game rate. As mentioned earlier, McTavish captained Canada’s U18 team at the U18 World Junior Championship where they won a Gold Medal. In that tournament he was very productive with 5 goals and 6 assists in 7 games. Now let’s take a look to see where McTavish is ranked.
Where is Mason McTavish Ranked?
You’ll notice below that the rankings for McTavish seem to consider him either a potential top 10 pick or a mid-1st rounder. The Central Scouting ranking is the highest on him which is understandable given what he displayed after making the move to Switzerland in February and then the performances he showcased at the U18 World Junior Championship in the spring. The Dobber Prospects ranking is the lowest on him but came out in early March so they didn’t have a lot of time to evaluate him from a 2020-21 perspective.
Steven Ellis of Sports Illustrated/The Hockey News has this article on McTavish’s draft year and play in the U18 World Championship from April. It talks about his strong play in Switzerland and at the U18’s improved his draft stock. He notes that The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy moved McTavish up in his rankings. Here is a quote from a scout regarding his ranking and play:
“I think I had him 15th in my pre-season rankings this year,” an Ontario-based scout said. “With everything he has shown – his size, strength and skill – he has taken it to a new level this season. The U-18s are just a microcosm of all of that.”
What Others Say About Mason McTavish
Going back to that Sports Illustrated article, a couple of scouts had this to say about McTavish’s style of play:
“He looked good over (in Switzerland),” a scout told The Hockey News in our recent Future Watch issue. “His release is terrific. He loves to shoot the puck and he loves to get to the net. He’s a heavy body. Sort of a one-speed guy but he’s competing and working more than last year, so that’s growth.”
“He kind of has that Nazem Kadri edge to him,” another scout added. “McTavish has the grit you want out of a physical forward and puts a ton of power into his shot. I’d say McTavish is more of a play driver than Kadri, though.”
It certainly seems that McTavish took advantage of being able to play in Europe to improve his draft stock. Scouts seem to live his combination of strength and skill. Being compared to Nazem Kadri who has turned in a solid NHL career so far is high praise for McTavish.
Here is Steve Kournianos’ profile of McTavish over at The Draft Analyst. You’ll notice that his ranking of McTavish went from #15 earlier in the season to #21 in the middle and then settled at #9 in May. He also notes that McTavish played left wing while in the Swiss League which does make a lot of sense given his age and lack of pro experience. In the profile he breaks McTavish’s game down by skating and stickhandling, shooting, passing, and playmaking, defense and physicality, and hockey sense. He also offers a NHL projection at the end so I recommend reading the whole profile. Below are some parts that stood out to me.
Regarding his skating and stickhandling:
McTavish is what you’d classify as a strong skater but more for the actual power in his stride and ability to keep his balance while he checked from any direction.
He simply uses his quick hands and sturdy frame to his advantage while allowing the rest of his unit to exploit any space he’s creating for them.
When looking into reports on McTavish, I’ve seen some mixed reviews on his skating but I think the way Steve Kournianos described it fits well. His skating may be lacking from a speed or smoothness perspective but for his style of play, the power he’s able to generate quickly and balance he has is a real asset. In keeping with his power forward style, it seems he knows how to create offense down low in the zone and protect the puck in tight areas.
Regarding his shooting, passing, and playmaking:
His Cy Young-esque goals to assist totals in league play may say otherwise, but McTavish has the instincts, vision, and hands to be a true center who can make any member in his unit a scoring option. But make no mistake about it — McTavish loves to shoot and owns an elite shot-release combination.
McTavish is more than willing to battle for net-front superiority or tire out checkers by starting and stopping throughout an entire offensive-zone possession.
When looking at his stats I was curious to see a center like McTavish have so many goals at every level he’s played at. It’s good to know that he is a dual threat and he is able to play on the wing if need be. I also like reading that he is effective at using his size and skill in front of the net to create opportunities for his team.
Regarding his defense and physicality:
Violence and aggression are just two of several commonplaces in your typical McTavish shift.
He kills penalties, supports his defensemen below the faceoff dots, and backchecks with a purpose.
It seems that McTavish has a bit of an old-school mentality in how he plays physically on the ice and I have to say I like it. It’s also encouraging to read that for all of his offensive attributes, that he is a solid defender.
Regarding his hockey sense:
He can add a layer of deception to his puck handling by shifting his shoulders and pivoting before darting in another direction, but McTavish also times his chips perfectly and seems to gauge the speed and quickness of an opposing defender before dumping pucks in. He also anticipates which side a rim will be directed towards and will pick off neutral-zone passes for immediate counterattacks.
The profile notes that McTavish has an understanding of what to do on and off the puck so it’s no surprise that he’s viewed as a solid two-way center.
Regarding his NHL projection:
Top-line power forward with two-way ability.
Overall, that is a profile that contains a lot of praise for McTavish but it seems to be warranted. He went overseas during a crazy season to play against men and did well in his first taste of professional hockey. He then followed that up with an impressive showing for Canada at the U18’s. As one of the prospects that has seen his stock rise the most in this draft, it’s no surprise to see so many aspects of his game earn positive reviews.
Next, we have this scouting report written by Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting. He gives Nazem Kadri as a comparison for McTavish and notes that he could be a top 9 center or top 6 winger. He also notes that he thinks McTavish is more effective on the wing as it allows him to participate in more board battles. This report breaks McTavish’s game down by offense, defense, transitional play, and skating. Here are a few parts that stood out:
Regarding his offense:
So far in Switzerland, we have yet to see McTavish’s sniper skill-set at work. The bulk of his goals have been as a of result of rebounds and shots from low danger that he has redirected.
Aside from his shot, McTavish won’t often drive play. But, there certainly are moments where he takes control of the cycle. His puck movement is solid. From a stick-handling perspective, he is average. He has good hands and his puck placement isn’t too far out.
From a passing perspective, McTavish isn’t a play-maker. His passes are tape-to-tape feeds and drop passes. He keeps the cycle alive, but won’t often thread elite passes to generate scoring chances.
This report seems to really rate his goal scoring ability, whether that is from his shot in space or him cleaning up in front of the net with deflections and rebounds that he puts past the goaltender. It doesn’t seem as high on his puck handling or passing as other reports but does seem to suggests that he does these things competently enough to be effective.
Regarding his defense:
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.
This also seems to suggests that being deployed on the wing could be the best way to get the most out of McTavish.
Regarding his transitional play:
From a transitional perspective, McTavish is not the most dynamic in transition. He doesn’t drive play and depends on his teammates to get the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone.
This seems to back up other reports that suggests a weakness in his game that is likely to stick is not being a play driver in transition. Like a lot of power forwards, McTavish seems to be best once already established in the offensive or defensive zones.
Regarding his skating:
Even though there are some power skating issues, he has worked on his skate extension since last season with Peterborough and I have seen him use a couple of lengthy first steps in the offensive zone when going to chase after a loose puck.
Once again, it seems McTavish has plenty of power when it comes to his skating, but needs to clean up his stride a bit. Overall, this report doesn’t seem as positive on McTavish as other reports but it does paint the picture that he could develop into a solid NHL power forward either at center or the wing
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has this scouting report on McTavish. He breaks down his game by looking at his skating, offense, defense, and offers a projection and comparison. Here are a few excerpts:
In regards to his skating:
McTavish has a good first step and accelerates quickly…McTavish will never be confused for a speedster but could improve his speed with a bit of work on his technique…His quick lateral movements and changes in direction allow him to avoid defenders, both in the neutral zone and on the cycle.
This seems to back up what others have said about his skating. McTavish is fine when it comes to having to move around defenders but his technique in open ice still could use some work.
In regards to his offense:
McTavish is a pure goal scorer. He has an outstanding wrist shot…McTavish also has a very good one-timer, getting himself open on the power play and firing it on the net.
McTavish controls the puck down low, as he is tough to stop in the cycle game. His puck control and puck protection allow him to maintain possession and wait for teammates to get open.
It’s encouraging to read that a center like McTavish has both an effective wrist shot and one-timer. It seems like he can offer more goal scoring ability than a lot of the other centers in this draft. I also like reading that he uses his size well in the offensive zone on the cycle and in board battles.
In regards to his defense:
He works hard on the backcheck and supports the defence down low. He combines his size and strength with a quick stick to help defend against the cycle game. McTavish forces attackers to the outside and is not afraid to throw a hit or battle for a loose puck.
This further backs up the belief that McTavish can be a two-way threat.
A projection and comparison:
McTavish has the ability to play both centre and wing. With his strong defensive game, and his ability to win faceoffs, he could be a very good two-way centre at the next level. However, he will need continued work on his skating to stay in the middle.
McTavish’s game is reminiscent of Jeff Carter. However this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
Overall, this is another positive report on McTavish. It notes that his skating could be improved but that as it currently stands, allows him to be effective enough when operating in tight spaces.
Finally, I want to include some of what Scouching wrote about McTavish in his post-NHL draft lottery rankings as he noted the player really improved relative to last year and while in Switzerland:
Last year, he was largely a shoot-first player, finding open space and ripping pucks into nets without tremendous pace or skating skill, but this year, he’s mobile, rambunctious, effective at both ends, and is trying to make plays as much as he’s trying to score pucks in a men’s pro league…He can play down the middle, he can play the wing, he can score, he can make a play off the boards, and he’s more than capable of getting the puck back if your team doesn’t have it.
Once again it seems that McTavish has made tangible improvements in his overall game and is deserving of his improved draft ranking across most boards.
A Little Video
The first video we have comes from Duncan and Ian of Devils in the Details. This highlights package includes plenty of goals and assists as well as forechecking and passing clips. It will definitely give you a good idea of what type of player McTavish is so I recommend checking it out. They also have this shift by shift vs. HC Sierre video should you want to see him in action throughout a game in the Swiss League.
If you want a quick snapshot of what type of player McTavish is and what he can bring to the table, then check out this short video from Draft Prospects Hockey. It features highlights mainly from his OHL play in 2019-20 with a narration of what he brings to the ice over them. I was a bit surprised to see McTavish earn praise for his transitional game here however it’s not like he is incapable of keeping the puck away from defenders in neutral ice and then utilizing his excellent shot when in the zone.
An Opinion of Sorts
Mason McTavish is a prospect that I am really interested in due to his goal scoring ability as a power forward and ability to play center or left wing. I feel like his above average shot, ability to win board battles and protect the puck, and his high compete level will make him a NHL player. The question remains to see if he will remain at center and if his ceiling would be that of a top 6 or top 9 player, but overall, I think his size and skill makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft class.
With that said, I unfortunately don’t see a way that the Devils could add him. Selecting him at 4th overall would be a big reach in my opinion given the other skaters available. I tend to agree with Scouching when he says, “but if he’s a guy your team reaches a little on in the back half of the Top 10, it might not be the call I make, but it isn’t a bad call whatsoever.” I think McTavish has shown enough improvement and ability at the professional level to warrant a pick in the latter part of the top 10. Reaching for him in the top 5 is just not a move that I would make based on the other players available. If the pick the Devils were receiving from the Islanders hadn’t moved back to the end of the 1st round, then maybe you would’ve hoped he fell (very unlikely) to the latter part of the top 20. As it is, with the Devils picking at 4th overall and somewhere from 28th to 31st (factoring in the Coyotes forfeited pick), there doesn’t seem to be a chance for them to grab McTavish. It’s too bad because I would love to add a player with his skill and compete level to the group of young forwards the Devils have added in recent years.
Still, I am interested in seeing how his career pans out. Power forwards seem to be tricky to project and develop but McTavish has the size, skill, and grit that if he puts it all together, will be a force at the NHL level for years to come. It will be interesting to see if he slips into the top 10 or if he goes towards the middle of the 1st round of the draft.
What are your thoughts on Mason McTavish? Do you think he would make sense for the Devils to select with the 4th overall pick? Where would you rank him among the other draft eligible players? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!