You probably don't need anyone telling you how weird the past 13 months have been.
That especially goes for Mason McTavish, who, with no OHL home to go to in 2020-21, moved to Switzerland to play with EHC Olten of the Swiss League, the second top league in the nation. McTavish was born in Zurich, SUI as a result of his dad, former Calgary Flame Dale McTavish, playing in Switzerland at the time of his birth, so it was a bit of a homecoming, even if it was a new city for him.
Like many major junior players, McTavish returned home in the spring with hopes of playing in the OHL again. It never happened, and McTavish had to wait until this past week in Texas to finally get a shot to play again, And, boy, has he made every viewing worth it. Canada didn't have an easy evening against Latvia on Wednesday, only winning 4-2 in a game that was much closer than anyone expected. McTavish had a huge game with a three-point night, highlighted by two goals – including the one final marker that put the game out of reach.
McTavish centered Canada's second line on Wednesday with Logan Stankoven and 2023 NHL draft phenom Connor Bedard. The line combined for seven points against Latvia and was generally the most dangerous unit on the ice.
“I think [the chemistry with Mason McTavish] has been really good so far," Stankoven said. "We were able to get some good cycles going. He is obviously a great player and knows how to make the right plays, so we were able to pitch in with a couple of goals tonight and help the team.”
His hot run so far has put him first in tournament scoring with five points in two games and it's a considerable continuation of what has otherwise been a strong year for the forward. McTavish had a strong OHL rookie season with 29 goals and 42 points in 57 games. The strong, two-way forward continued that success to the second Swiss league this season, where his nine goals and 11 points in 13 games made him one of Olten's most significant contributors. His seven playoff points in four games put him fifth in team scoring despite missing another round of play.
You either choose to be a victim or become the victor. McTavish chose the latter, and performing at such a rate in a year where many other players in his age group didn't get an opportunity is key.
"I think I had him 15th in my pre-season rankings this year," an Ontario-based scout said. "With everything he has shown – his size, strength and skill – he has taken it to a new level this season. The U-18s are just a microcosm of all of that."
The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy recently updated his top 40 draft rankings for 2021, placing McTavish in ninth. Other public outlets have placed him as high as fifth and as low as 23rd, but very few scouts have negative things to say about a player that has really improved on the little things in his game.
"He looked good over (in Switzerland)," a scout told The Hockey News in our recent Future Watch issue. "His release is terrific. He loves to shoot the puck and he loves to get to the net. He's a heavy body. Sort of a one-speed guy but he's competing and working more than last year, so that's growth."
"He kind of has that Nazem Kadri edge to him," another scout added. "McTavish has the grit you want out of a physical forward and puts a ton of power into his shot. I'd say McTavish is more of a play driver than Kadri, though."
With Canada's win against Sweden, the path to win Group A goes through Switzerland and Belarus – two teams Canada shouldn't have many concerns with. McTavish will have the opportunity to continue impressing scouts on the floor in Texas, and perhaps bump up his draft stock in a year where not many high-end forwards are getting talked about.
McTavish, though, is definitely opening some eyes right now.