In a season that’s been full of dread and dreary for the Ducks, it’s easy to see why it would be difficult to pick out any bright spots. Thankfully, there are a few.
There’s the continued excellence of Troy Terry, who’s building off of last season’s breakout performance. Trevor Zegras seems to add another highlight to his reel almost every night with his package of exquisite puck skills.
Perhaps going a bit unnoticed outside of the Anaheim sphere is how well Mason McTavish has fared in what will be his first full season in the NHL.
In a nine-game cup of coffee last season, McTavish didn’t look out of place. He scored his first NHL goal in the first game of the season after being notified hours before the game that he would be drawing in.
A minor injury momentarily halted his progress, but he didn’t skip a beat during a three-game conditioning loan in the AHL. A tally in his first game with the Gulls made him the youngest player in their history to score a goal.
Once healthy, he returned to juniors and wreaked havoc. An early-season trade landed him on the Hamilton Bulldogs and they cruised their way to the OHL Playoffs, where they bulldozed their way to the final. A grueling series against the Windsor Spitfires came down to the seventh and final game, in which McTavish scored twice to lead the Bulldogs to victory.
However, the Bulldogs’ Memorial Cup hopes would be dashed in the final. Despite two goals from McTavish, they lost 6-3 to the Saint John Dogs. McTavish finished tied for the points lead in the tournament with eight points in five games.
Along the way, he’s also made appearances at World Juniors (twice) and the Olympics. His goal-line clearance in the gold medal game against Finland, amongst all his other contributions in the tournament, led to Kent Johnson’s overtime winner and another World Juniors gold for Team Canada. McTavish, who was Canada’s captain, was also named tournament MVP.
The 19-year-old hasn’t missed a beat since then, looking head and shoulders above anyone else at development camp and showcasing his skills during training camp as well. Starting out the regular season on the wing didn’t seem to impact the natural centerman either, as he dished out two assists in the season opener and had four points in the first five games of the season.
The scoring has become a bit more erratic in part due to the Ducks’ inability to do so along with McTavish being shuttered down the lineup, mostly as a fourth-line center. But, he does have five points in the last 10 games and his average time on ice has jumped two whole minutes from 13 to 15 since the first 10 games of the season when he had four points in the same span.
With Isac Lundestrom out for six weeks with a fractured finger and the recently returned Derek Grant suffering another injury on Saturday, Anaheim is down two centers. McTavish has drawn in at center more often since the beginning of November and that’s now unlikely to change given the depleted options at the pivot.
McTavish has already established him as a key component of the Ducks’ top power play unit alongside Zegras and Terry and even though his name does commonly show up on the fourth line, his time on ice represents closer to the season averages of his aforementioned special teams peers.
Ironically, this piece comes on the back of perhaps McTavish’s worst performance of the season, a game in which the Ducks’ two goals were scored by one of his linemates and the second power play unit.
Anaheim went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in the wake of Grant’s injury—and not wanting to recall a forward while being on the tail-end of a road trip—but will likely call up reinforcements prior to their game on Tuesday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lundestrom’s injury will keep him out for the remainder of 2022 and it wouldn’t be a surprise if McTavish takes on some of the ice time left behind by the Swede. Behind Zegras and Ryan Strome, McTavish is now firmly entrenched as the third-line center, for at least the next six weeks, that is.