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Mason McTavish is the Calder favorite

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Mason McTavish is hands down the favorite for the Calder trophy next season. Last year he showed he can play in the NHL, scoring two goals and an assist in his nine game try out. He looked like he could have played the entire season in the league, but Anaheim was in no hurry to win, so they sent him back to Juniors for another year of development. He proceeded to light the OHL on fire, scoring 20 goals and 47 points in just 29 regular season games. For an overage player those numbers are not that impressive, but he really stepped up in the playoffs, scoring just under a goal per game with 16 in 19 games to go with 13 assists for a total of 29 points.

More recently, McTavish served as captain for Team Canada at the 2022 world junior championship. It was a historically dominant performance for McTavish, as he put up seventeen points in eight games, tied for third most all time by a Canadian player, with players like Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros. I believe this is what the kids call, “going sicko mode.” In the gold medal game, he had over 26 minutes of ice time and assisted on both of Canada’s goals in regulation, but just looking at the point totals does not tell the whole story of how good McTavish’s game was.

When McTavish was on the ice, team Finland attempted two more shots than team Canada at five on five. That is the only category that could be considered a negative mark for the young center. Despite having fewer shot attempts, Canada managed to consistently create much more dangerous attempts with McTavish on the ice. They managed four chances on the rush to Finland’s two, and nine of Canada’s eleven shot attempts came from high or medium danger areas while just two of Finland’s shot attempts can say the same thing. McTavish took five of the team’s eleven shot attempts himself, and assisted on two more meaning he was directly involved in seven of the eleven shot attempts team Canada made at five on five. That’s 64 percent of the team’s shot attempts. All seven of these shot attempts were from high or medium danger areas of the ice. That is pretty good.

The least impressive part of McTavish’s performance in the gold medal game would be his passing. He attempted nine passes in the offensive zone at five on five, completing just four of them for a rather poor 44% completion rate. Of his nine pass attempts, five were to or through high or medium danger areas. Of these he completed two for a 40% completion rate which is more reasonable given the added difficulty these kinds of passes present.

One area of this game that would have stood out to anyone watching McTavish closely was how effective and involved he was in transition. While he was on the ice, team Canada successfully completed eight controlled offensive zone transitions. McTavish was directly involved in half of them, carrying the puck into the zone himself three times, and passing once. It is also important to note that those four offensive zone transitions were the only ones McTavish attempted in the game at 5 on 5, meaning his controlled offensive zone transition success rate is 100%. But it does not end there. While he was on the ice, team Canada successfully completed five controlled defensive zone exits. Of these five, McTavish was directly involved in three of them, carrying the puck himself twice and passing for the breakout once. Once again, these three D-zone breakouts were the only three of the game McTavish attempted, giving him a controlled defensive zone transition success rate of 100%.

You combine all of this data and you find yourself a player who was directly involved in 64% of the shots his team took at five on five with him on the ice, a player who created only high and medium danger shot attempts, and a player who was involved in more than half the total controlled zone transitions his team took, personally completing every zone transition he attempted. Not to mention the fact that all of this took place in the gold medal game of the highest level junior tournament in the world. This was arguably the most important game McTavish has played in to this point in his career. It is safe to say that he had a good game.

Of course, it is not recommended that one forms an opinion about a player after watching just one game. However, while this is the only game I have tracked data for, I have seen McTavish play in other games and these are the conclusions I have made about him. First and foremost, McTavish is a player that likes to play with the puck on his stick. Whether it is defensive zone breakouts or one timers on the power play, he loves to dictate play himself. In part because of this, he is a tremendous threat in transition. He loves to lead the rush, often carrying the puck himself from blue line to blue line before taking a medium or high danger shot attempt. However, while he does love to play with the puck on his stick and he certainly loves to shoot, this does not cloud his decision making. Yes there are times when maybe it would have been better to pass and he took a shot attempt instead, but generally this is not a major flaw in his game. That being said, passing is not a highlight of his game but he is relatively smart with the puck. When he does attempt passes in the offensive zone, he is usually trying to set up a high or medium danger scoring chance and he is reasonably successful at doing so. He likes to cut to the inside and drive towards the net on the rush, and take one timers or attempt cross ice passes from the right faceoff circle on the cycle and especially on the power play. He can also be a strong net front presence, as he is quite the opponent to face in a positioning battle. He has good off puck awareness in all three zones, which helps him time moves around the opponents net, creating space for himself for deflections or rebounds. Overall, He’s a strong force in transition who has a powerful and accurate one timer and wrist shot. His two way game is effective enough to comfortably play center in a top six role in the NHL and he seems to drive great high and medium danger shot differentials, at least at the junior level.

“The more we watched Mason McTavish, the greater our affinity for his game. There’s so much maturity to the way he plies his trade.” - J.D. Burk Elite prospects

What does this mean for McTavish’s Calder hopes? Well, for starters, the Calder is really about two things. The first is opportunity. Any rookie hoping to make a serious push for the Calder is going to have to get a good amount of playing time in the top six (as a forward) and on the power play. If you look at the last three Calder winners, Moritz Seider, Krill Kaprizov, and Cale Makar, you find three players that all jumped into big roles with the NHL clubs in their rookie seasons. The second factor that goes into Calder consideration is skill. These tend to go hand in hand as more skilled players are likely to play higher up in the lineup anyways. However, not all teams handle rookies the same way. While a player like Moritz Seider was basically given the reins to Detroit’s top power play unit right away, a player like Jason Robertson had to earn his role in Dallas’s top six over time. Quite simply, different teams have different approaches to developing their young players. This combined with how deep a team is at the position a rookie is playing for them plays a big role in how much opportunity a particular rookie might get.

So how do these factors apply in the case of Mason McTavish? Let’s first take a look at what kind of opportunity there is to play in Anaheim’s top six next season. Currently, McTavish is projected to play left wing on a line with Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano on the Duck’s second line. He is also projected to play on the first power play unit. That kind of deployment would not be too bad in terms of pure ice time, but unless he can be the one driving offensive results right away at 5 on 5, that line with Strome and Vatrano looks weak at best. That being said, Adam Henrique is currently projected to play on the top line with Zegras and Terry, but if Anaheim is going to be playing McTavish at left wing, it is certainly possible the bump him down the lineup in favor of McTavish to see what he can do next to Zegras. Regardless, it looks like the opportunity should be there for McTavish to play a decent amount of minutes this season. If we look at recent history with top rookies playing for Anaheim, Trevor Zegras averaged nearly eighteen minutes a game last season. McTavish might not get quite as much ice time as that, but he should be in the same ballpark.

As for the skill, I think that is a bit easier to digest in video form. Check out this video below where I talk some more about Mason McTavish. If you’re new to the channel, be sure to subscribe and all that good stuff.

Ultimately, this combination of opportunity and skill leads to the oh so important and not so secret third factor; points production. It is safe to say Mason McTavish has the skill he needs to put up impressive point totals. He should have the opportunity he needs to put up points as well.

All of this is to say that Mason McTavish should win the 2022-23 Calder trophy.

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