For the second time in the past three drafts, the Calgary Flames selected a goaltender in the first three rounds. While the Flames have just dreadful, dreadful luck picking goalies in the first round – Brent Krahn and Leland Irving say hey – they’ve been better in the later rounds. 2012’s third round pick was used on Jon Gillies, currently towering over the opposition with the Providence College Friars. This year, Calgary used the 34th overall selection on another tender from the East Coast – selecting Mason McDonald from the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders.
McDonald had an interesting year, being traded half-way through the campaign from the Acadie-Bathhurst Titan to PEI, posting numbers that were solid if unspectacular. He also appeared at the Top Prospects Game in Calgary and the IIHF Under-18 World Championships, two events that really boosted his profile with his impressive performances.
I had the chance to chat with McDonald at Calgary’s development camp at Winsport.
Is a camp like this a nice change of pace for a junior player like yourself? You get a chance to see some older players and guys that are a bit more pro-ready?
Yeah, definitely. It’s a big jump from junior to this. The pace is so much faster and guys skate so much faster. Shots are a lot faster. Everything’s just bang-bang. It’s great to have the experience of it, and I think going back to junior it’ll help me.
What’s Charlottetown like to play in? It seems a bit isolated compared to some of the other junior cities, but I’ve heard it draws fans from the entire island.
It’s small but it is a great hockey community. I really enjoy playing there. The fans are passionate, they really like the team there. I think the guys enjoy playing there, too. It’s a great town. I got to see a lot of it last year and I’m really looking forward to going back.
It’s probably a bit of a change-of-pace from Acadie-Bathhurst.
Yeah, definitely. Going from a small little French town to kind of a bigger English town was nice. I’m just used to it more. I visited PEI before previous to playing there and I really like it.
Do you speak any French?
No, I don’t speak any French. [Laughs]
Do you feel like your season gained some momentum at the Top Prospects Game when you faced 16 shots and only allowed a single goal?
Yeah, definitely. Going to that game, I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was a really fun week here in Calgary. The pace of that game was really high. A lot of skill. A lot of shots. Overall, the experience was great and I’d do it again any day.
After a camp like this, do you focus on the things you did well or do you look at the things you want to improve that you notice here?
I’m always looking to improve. They beat me a few times through the five-hole there, so I’ve got to be quicker in closing my five-hole. I just want to get bigger and stronger every day, that’s what I’ve got to work on. I push myself every day in the gym, on the ice, no matter what it is… Not giving up on pucks at practice. I think that’ll make me better in the games.