Anaheim Ducks: Mason McTavish Makes a Mark in NHL Debut

Mason McTavish #37 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mason McTavish #37 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Fans the time has come, Anaheim Ducks hockey is officially back! While the past three seasons without playoffs have dulled some of our spirits it does admittedly feel good to see the new campaign begin. While nobody is picking the Ducks to be in the playoffs this year the team still began the season on the right foot with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

For the first game of the season the Ducks played very well, while sloppy at times, it can be chalked up to the first game of the season and getting acclimated with one another. The team is starting with a great building block as John Gibson started the year off with a fantastic 33 save performance.

Additionally, many veterans stepped up scoring goals with Kevin Shattenkirk, Rickard Rakell, and Adam Henrique putting the puck in the net. If the team is going to compete this year they will need the veterans to provide the spark, including tremendous focus on both Rakell and Henrique who are coming off of down seasons.

One of the young kids also found the score sheet last night and it wasn’t Trevor Zegras, as many may have expected. Mason McTavish, the third overall selection from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in July, made his NHL debut opening night and I can’t imagine the young forward could have dreamed it going as well as it did.

Just over 13 minutes into the game McTavish drove to the net, found himself in the right position, and potted his first career NHL goal. The officials originally ruled the play no goal because the whistle had blown, but the replay overturned it as the play was deemed unaffected by the whistle.

Later in the game, McTavish assisted on Henrique’s powerplay goal, finishing the night with two points while helping the team secure the win. Now, when you look into the Anaheim Ducks franchise history you will see Mason McTavish as the youngest player to ever score a goal, three days younger than team legend Oleg Tverdovsky.

Not only did he get the two points, but McTavish looked like he belonged out on the ice. John Ahlers and Brian Hayward mentioned early on how he has not shied away from getting mixed up with the physicality on the ice, both last night and in the preseason.

Mason McTavish Proving he was the Best Pick for the Anaheim Ducks

Many were surprised with the Ducks pick of McTavish at this past July’s draft. The Ducks clearly needed scoring help and many pointed towards the selection of Dylan Guenther, a skilled winger with a great shot who likely would’ve fit in well with the club.

The team’s scoring input has been anemic over the past two years and they did address that with McTavish, a young player who has a great shot like Guenther but plays the premium center position. In addition, he is much more of a power forward which is very much on-brand with how Bob Murray likes to build his team.

The surprising thing about McTavish’s debut is that it was not even supposed to happen, as when the lineup projections were released he was to be scratched alongside Sam Steel and Josh Mahura.

However, close to puck drop, it was announced that Max Jones would be scratched due to a non-COVID-related illness giving the rookie the opportunity. While this unfortunate situation worked out well for both McTavish and the Ducks, one must wonder why the young forward made the team if Dallas Eakins’ plan was to put him in the press box.

Scratching McTavish is the Worst Thing Head Coach Dallas Eakins Could Do

There was some surprise and excitement when the Ducks announced McTavish made the team at the start of the regular season. The option is obviously there to send him back to his junior team in Peterborough after the ten-game threshold for his Entry-Level Contract slide to kick in. However, with such a young player in a very important part of development, it was frustrating to see Eakins plan to scratch him.

This year will act as bit of normalcy for everybody, let alone hockey players and leagues. McTavish luckily got the opportunity to play against men in Switzerland last year with EHC Olten, which was a real benefit for his development leading into his draft year.

The keyword there is development, as the Anaheim Ducks are currently in the rebuilding phase and need their young players to develop properly. A great example is seeing Sam Steel as a healthy scratch last night, after his development last year seemed to hit a hole in the road.

While Eakins and Murray have proven their willingness in putting younger players in the lineup, looking at Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, it is vital that these players continue to improve and get more comfortable in the NHL to fulfill their full potentials. This cannot happen while sitting in the press box. While McTavish is getting great experience being with the team it is most important for him to be playing, whether that is with the Ducks, Petes, or Team Canada.

Mason McTavish could become an important piece of the Anaheim Ducks this year. With his size and scoring ability, his rookie season could resemble that of other young power forwards such as Brady Tkachuk who made their debut in their draft season. As the team continues to turn over and become competitive again, the young players need to see ice time to continue on their respective development curves.

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