By the time you’ve begun to read this, you’ve no doubt scoured the internet for every single word ever written about Anaheim Ducks’ newest draft pick, Mason McTavish. You’ve probably gone from “Why not *insert name*?” to “You know what, this kid is probably the next Getzlaf.” Or at least something like that.
With that in mind, I don’t feel the need to create yet another after-the-fact draft profile or to discuss every single thing that is good about this player. What I would like to do, however, is discuss what this draft selection is to Bob Murrays Ducks and why we as fans should be more excited than perhaps we are.
"“I really admire the way Ryan Getzlaf plays. He is a big center, he gets around pretty well and obviously as you know has high-end skills.” – Mason McTavish"
Let’s not beat around the bush, the Ducks reached for McTavish. His was a talent that was projected anywhere from the 9th through to the ’20s, with most pundits settling in the mid-teens. McTavish’s draft year in the OHL was wiped out by the global pandemic, and his D-1 season didn’t present production which would typically scream top-3 pick. Sure, he went oversea’s and scored some goals against men, but that’s a little harder to compare to his peers.
There is an absolute case to be made that the Ducks could have traded back, and traded back again, and still acquired this player along with any assets they would have received along the way. That scenario, however, is merely a fantasy that didn’t occur and thus, has no bearing on this discussion. It’s also worth noting that Martin Madden, the Ducks assistant GM, flagged this option after the draft and noted that there simply wasn’t enough of a return involved to warrant any increased in doing so.
This then puts the pressure squarely on the Ducks as much of this draft picks future value hinges upon the OHL season being wiped away and the Ducks being correct in their projections. This mindset, to back themselves in, is itself, worthy of discussion. The Ducks, to put it mildly, do not have a strong history of forwards that were drafted in Murray’s era. This mild critique is especially true of power forwards.
Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen the Ducks take Nick Ritchie at 10th overall and the very highly touted Max Jones late in the first round. Neither has been well developed. Ritchie was brought into the NHL far too early and he spent several seasons looking lost on the ice. Jones was brought in and played almost exclusively in the bottom-6 with no power-play time.
However, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of the draft process, but one of the Ducks development system. Last season we saw the Ducks bring in Jamie Drysdale at least one season too early. Earlier in the decade, Bob Murray “couldn’t see John Gibson in the AHL” leading to his coming into the team earlier than he perhaps should have, subsequently leading into his prevailing soft tissue injuries.
The inability to correctly develop young athletes is a long-term concern for Ducks fans. However, it’s worth noting that the development coach for nearly all of the current Ducks has either been Dallas Eakins or Kevin Dineen.
All these players have been stars or on the right track to success, before coming to a screaming halt in San Diego… or Iowa, or wherever the Ducks affiliate was in any given season. The drafting wasn’t necessarily wrong. The development of the players those draft picks became, was.
Circling Back to Mason McTavish
Bob Murray is no doubt excited about the tools which McTavish presents. At face value, he’s a big-bodied center who hit’s like a truck and gets into all the hard places on the ice to earn his keep. These things suggest that he has the archetype to draw a lot of calls in the NHL, which is something Murray flagged in the offseason as something the Ducks have trouble doing.
Murray will also like that he can win draws in the face-off circle and that he contributes on the penalty kill. If Trevor Zegras is to be the offensive dream that Murray hopes will eventually replace Ryan Getzlaf, then McTavish appears to be that big-bodied defensive player who can replace Ryan Kesler. At least to an extent.
I know what you’re thinking: “So Benny, you’re telling me the Ducks drafted another two-way power forward? But this time they had to reach instead of taking the talent on offer?”