Just imagine being on the other side of the world, only to have your beard trimmer go over you. What should a boy-man do? Well, if you are Mason McTavish, you take some of your signing bonus money and replace it. When you can find the time, of course.
How about all the travel and scoring and jet lag, it just wasn’t a big priority. “I have to go out and buy one,” McTavish said as he rubbed his chin in his gut at FirstOntario Center in Hamilton after a three-assist appearance on a Saturday afternoon, “because this is getting out of control. . ”
You’ll have to apologize to him if he’s a little confused. So would you if you were on your eighth job in your third continent and fourth country in 10 months. Normally when a guy plays for so many teams so fast, it’s enough to get a sea of red flags, but for McTavish it could not be further from the truth. It is actually the opposite. McTavish has been a Duck, Gull, Pete and Bulldog, among others, because it seems like everyone wants him to play for them. Now that he’s found a home, at least for the rest of this season, with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, that beard trimmer is next time to be ticked off the to-do list.
Judging by the way the third overall election in 2021 and the Anaheim Ducks’ top prospects have played out, there’s a good chance a new gadget will get work until mid-April, so if things go according to plan, not again. before once around Canada Day, a few days after the Memorial Cup ends.
The Bulldogs were one of the CHL’s top teams as they gave up two players and six draft picks – including a conditional 2025 pick that will be used on a kid currently playing on an under-13 team somewhere – for to acquire McTavish as a lease from Peterborough Petes in January. With McTavish in the lineup, they may very well be a juggernaut. “I think he’s the best player in junior hockey,” said Bulldogs president and GM Steve Staios, who pulled the trigger on the deal. “I go back to the (2019 OHL) draft. He was the best player on our board. I have always been happy for him as a player.”
There seems to be a bit of that love for McTavish on the way around. In fact, the pandemic, the Olympics and McTavish’s games have conspired to see him wear eight different uniforms since last season. At a cost of around $ 500 to get each of those jerseys framed, McTavish probably can not afford to be much more popular than he already is – and then there is also the issue of finding wall space for all of them.
It all started last season when the pandemic wiped out the OHL campaign, so McTavish, who was born in Switzerland in 2003 when his father played there, joined Olten from the Swiss league in second place and then traveled at the end of April to help guide Canada to a World Under-18 Gold Medal.
Then things got blurry. The Ducks drafted him No. 3 overall, then gave him a nine-game audition, combined with a three-game tour with their AHL farm team in San Diego. The Ducks then returned McTavish to OHL Peterborough, a disappointment he responded to by scoring a hat-trick in his first game back in junior. The day McTavish was returned to Peterborough, Staios called Pete’s GM Mike Oke to express his interest in acquiring McTavish.
Then it was on to Canada’s team for the truncated world junior championship, and by the time he was given to Hamilton by the OHL trade deadline, it had already been decided that McTavish would become the youngest player on Canada’s Olympic team in Beijing. He played three games for Hamilton, then traveled to the Olympics and returned to Hamilton in late February. When he returned, it took McTavish a full 35 seconds to score his first goal. In his first six games totaled with the Bulldogs, he collected 15 points.
“It’s a shame because that’s where I want to play in the NHL.” said McTavish. ‘But I think that was the right move at the time. I have developed a lot more and got many more offensive touches in the ‘O’ zone and more opportunities to play on the powerplay on the flank. Those are the things that will make me a better player in the long run. ”
The Ducks could have kept McTavish up all season and played him on the wing, and that would probably have been okay. He would have practiced and played against the best players in the world, and he would probably have taken really good notes from Ryan Getzlaf. But like McTavish himself, the Ducks see him as a center when he is ready to play in the best league in the world. What kind of player will he be? What influence does he want? Well, now, it’s a little more annoying, not because there’s any doubt he wants to be a percussionist, but because he does so many things well that it’s hard to put him together into one template. For his part, McTavish admires the way JT Miller and Bo Horvat play the game, while many observers see him as the heir to Getzlaf or perhaps Anze Kopitar. We all know how they like their big two-way pivots in the Pacific Division.
“I like the person more than anything else,” Bulldogs coach Jay McKee said. “He’s a great boy. He loves the game. He’s a really good teammate, and he’s really clicked with the guys here. On the ice, he’s an elite talent. His shot is a hard NHL shot. It’s not just an NHL shot. “shots, it’s a hard NHL shot. Vision, playmaking, he really is the full package of a player. He has it all. He has a competitive, defensive responsibility. Everything is far above average. He is a full pack player.”
At 6-feet-1 and 207 pounds, the McTavish is a very large fire hydrant, albeit one with a superior ability to get around the ice. No one expects McTavish to become a hockey nomad next season, because with the exception of a complete disaster, he will be in Anaheim forever. After this season and WJC this summer, there will be nothing left for him to perform at this level. And he’s so close to being ready. When hockey people talk about 19-year-old prospects, the first warning they have is usually that the player needs to get stronger. No one is saying that Mason McTavish needs to get stronger.
The Bulldogs went 10-1-0 when McTavish was away at the Olympics, prompting McKee to tell McTavish when he returned that he might be able to find a spot for him on the fourth line. McTavish immediately went on a tear, including a match in which he assisted the overtime winner on a set game. After the Bulldogs won a draw, defender Nathan Staios (yes, Steve’s son) took it back deep into the Hamilton zone, while defender Colton Kammerer switched through the ‘D’door, with McTavish sneaking out on the other side of the bench.
Staios made a pass to McTavish, who sent him on an outburst, which was saved before McTavish collected the puck, took it around the net and fought from a defender before feeding it to Staios, who scored. It was a 20-second clip of the forces in McTavish’s game. And that was a clear indication that when the game is at stake, the Bulldogs know exactly on whose stick they want the puck.
“He was brought in for a reason,” McKee said, “to try to help us do something special. He’s a guy who just makes the guys around him better. If you ask any of these kids, “Everyone is excited to play with him. He picks up the pace in the shift, he picks up the pace in practice and he has a lot of positive energy.”
When the Ducks get McTavish next season, they will have an extremely mature, NHL-ready player. Playing with all these players and personalities and for eight different coaches over the last year has allowed McTavish to pull an awful lot of knowledge out of the people who have surrounded him. He has played and excelled at almost every level of elite hockey, and he has distinguished himself wherever he has been. And it adds to what was already a high level of maturity and worldly experience. “When I get to the rink, I’m pretty professional and like to call it,” McTavish said. “But away from the ice rink, I’m like all the other guys I like to have fun with. When I’m on the ice rink, I want to develop and get better. I just love playing hockey, and every time I’m out there, I just want to win and compete and do the best for myself and the team I play for. ”
And there are eight teams, eight coaches and dozens of teammates over the past year who are happy to testify to that.