Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images
Mason McTavish is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect. While McTavish is a Canadian national and represents Canada in international play, he was born in Zürich, Switzerland and has a Swiss player license.
McTavish’s father, Dale had played in Switzerland throughout McTavish’s childhood. Dale played for three Swiss clubs including SC Rapperswil-Jona, ZSC Lions and EV Zug. Prior to Dale’s time in the NLA, he played junior hockey for the Pembroke Lumber Kings (which he now owns) and the Peterborough Petes. In addition, he played in 57 games in the AHL (over two seasons) with the Saint John Flames and in nine NHL games with the Calgary Flames. In 1997, Dale and his wife Christine decided to move to Europe. Initially, Dale signed in Finland and played for SaiPa and the Espoo Blues before heading down to Switzerland.
Mason’s older brother, Darian most recently played in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (previously known as CCHL2) with the Whitewater Kings.
McTavish plays for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, but due to COVID-19 and the OHL yet to return to play, he has been loaned out to EHC Olten of the Swiss League. Before I continue on about McTavish, I just want to explain that EHC Olten competes in the Swiss B League. For those who are unaware, the top league in Switzerland is the NLA or National League.
While McTavish has been playing in the B League, it likely won’t be long before we see him suit up in the NLA. On March 6th, Elite Prospects reported that EV Zug (NLA team) acquired McTavish’s B license. It was also reported that fellow Canadian and 2021 NHL Draft prospect Brennan Othmann of the Flint Firebirds, who had playing on EHC Olten as well had been loaned out as well. Othmann’s B license was acquired by SC Bern (NLA).
In twelve games played in the SL, McTavish has tallied eight goals and two assists (stats as of March 6, 2021). While you would think that the transition to Swiss Hockey might have been somewhat of a challenge, McTavish played youth hockey on Swiss ice with EV Zug and got into the groove pretty fast this season.
D.O.B – January 30, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –196 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
McTavish’s Style Of Play
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.
McTavish’s placement in the high slot has paved the way for month deflection and rebound goals. But, as I mentioned above, it also gives McTavish’s team to catch the goaltender off guard. For example, if the puck is being played towards the left side and McTavish is on the other side of the goaltender, he can catch the goaltender off guard as the goaltender has to shift over fast enough to counter the attack.
McTavish will also do the reverse when there are too many of his teammates up high. If the puck is being played in the corners and three of his teammates are attending to the puck, he will move to the blue-line to provide support incase his opponents gain possession of the puck and institute a breakout.
When EHC Olten is on the power play, they will plug McTavish in at the slot. McTavish sits in the middle of the penalty kill diamond formation. Given McTavish’s sniping ability, having him in the slot can pave the way for plenty of one-timer goals.
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. But, during his time with the Peterborough Petes, he has proven to be a deadly snipper. In fact, many analysts and scouts consider McTavish’s shot to be one of the best in the 2021 NHL Draft class. His ability to score from beyond high danger is definitely noteworthy. The below screenshot from InStat Hockey looks at his goals from last season. You will see that he has fared pretty well when shooting from outside of the high slot.
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. But, his stick-handling is not at the point where you can depend on it to navigate the puck out of a tight back-check. When McTavish is facing tight pressure, he won’t pivot out. Instead, he will push the puck along the boards to his defender at the point. While it’s not the worst move to make, he doesn’t often scan the boards with his peripheral vision to see if he can spot a teammate open further up the boards. In addition, he will wait too long with the puck and will give the opposition enough time to put pressure on him. He will have teammates open, but will hesitate about passing to them. While quick decision making can be a challenge for McTavish, there are plenty of prospects with similar challenges such as Kent Johnson.
From a forechecking perspective, McTavish is slightly slower to the forecheck when you compare him against other draft eligible prospects. But, he still provides good pressure on the forecheck and will force puck movement along the boards. There are moments where defenders will play the puck behind their own net and McTavish pounces at the right second to gain control of the puck. Additionally, he has a good understanding of passing routes and will pin-point the right spot to intercept the pass.
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.
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.
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. But, there certainly are situations where McTavish has shown that he can step up and provide support with zone entries. For example, if McTavish sees that he has a wide open teammate on the edge of the offensive zone, he will wire a solid stretch pass for a zone entry pass.
But, you should not expect McTavish to go zone-to-zone with the puck. That just isn’t his style of play. With that being said, one of the biggest drawbacks in transition is his stride extension. McTavish typically does not use a lengthy extension to garner acceleration. So, that hurts his ability to drive play through the neutral zone. If McTavish were to develop a power stride, you might see McTavish alter his transitional play.
We’ve touched on McTavish’s stride extension a few times throughout the report, so I’m going to keep that section relatively short.
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.
McTavish does utilize tight crossovers for acceleration purposes and for lateral movements. But, you have to keep in mind that he can only get limited acceleration until he widens his first few steps.
Lastly, I do want to address that often when McTavish goes in for a check along the boards that he does loose his balance. When he jumps into the check and tries to land, he lands with the toe of his skate and not his skate blade. McTavish should look to address how he lands off of a check to ensure that he won’t leave his team in a vulnerable spot if he tries to go for a check in the defensive zone and the opposition regains control of the puck.
Nazem Kadri, Center, Colorado Avalanche
Like McTavish, Nazem Kadri has a lot of grit to his game and doesn’t control play that much. Kadri relies on his wingers quite a bit in transition. In addition, he has a solid shot from beyond the high slot. With that being said, Kadri has shown that he can be physical and gritty at open ice. McTavish has yet to do so, but with development it is possible that he can match Kadri’s gritty play away from the boards.
Top Nine Center/Top Six Winger (NHL). Depends mainly on how he is deployed.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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