Rookie Midterms

Rookie Midterms: Mason McTavish looks like a soon-to-be top-line forward

When most players jump to the NHL, they become less effective. Puck touches, especially those in prime situations, become fewer. The tricks and plays that torched lower leagues become lower percentage plays with each step up. That’s just the reality of better opponents and internal competition. 

Entering the season, it looked like Mason McTavish would endure a similar fate. His booming shot, scoring instincts, and overwhelming physical game seemed like the skills that would translate immediately. Meanwhile, the inefficient but exciting flashes of playmaking and puck possessions skills would slip away under the rigours of the NHL, at least for this season. 

That didn’t happen.  

Instead, McTavish’s playmaking has become more consistent; his puck-carrying game more refined. As a result, he’s become more diverse and efficient. His already-towering upside looks even higher.

In junior, McTavish was mostly a straight-line, single-speed player off the rush. In the OHL, his tools ensured it wasn’t much of a limitation. He could out-skate, overpower, and deke through opponents with relative ease, and he was a scoring threat from just about anywhere in the offensive third. Creating advantages for his teammates wasn’t needed; he was the greatest advantage.

But those rush patterns aren’t conducive to creating offence in the NHL. Defenders are just too good to consistently fall for predictable, single-variable plays. 

McTavish learned that lesson early and quickly adapted. He’s pressing the middle more often, even if that won’t be the point of entry, because it brings the opposing defenders together, creating space on the perimeter. If the defenders back off, he slows down and waits for support rather than rushing the player forward. 

Those are the two advantageous situations that hold McTavish’s improved off-the-rush playmaking. After dragging both defenders together, he passes to the outside. Instead of rushing to the defence to go 1-on-1, he stays in space and finds the open teammate in scoring position. He uses more lateral passes than he ever did in junior, passing through and around opponents to teammates speeding up the rink. {{ PA

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Rookie Midterms Anaheim Ducks NHL Mason McTavish
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