2014 Development Camp: Mason McDonald

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.

  • mattyc

    I like these interviews. They are interesting. however this post is way off topic.

    Rumours are that O’Riley is on the possible trading block. If he is what do people think about a deal involving Backlund and Granlund and 2015 2nd round for O’Riley?

    Would you do that deal if you’re Colorado?

        • Jeff Lebowski

          Sort of agree, here’s the thing, without the numbers to support it. I kind of look at the two as very similar. O’Reilly’s got (much) better scoring numbers, but then again Colorado’s much more offensive-minded than the Flames. Both good on the defensive side of things, Backlund a bit faster(?), smaller, worse on face-offs(?) and both very good Corsi, etc. Both similar ages with some upside in each. Both are probably a great 3C on either team long-term. But here’s the thing, O’Reilly’s going to cost you big time, at least $6mm+/year long-term, or else he’s going UFA in 2 years and you’re left with nothing. Backlund’s a steal right now and you can probably get him long-term for I’m guessing $4-5mm range. When you balance it all out they’re pretty close and not bad options for either team…

          • mattyc

            I see O’Reilly as having a much higher offensive ceiling, plus he’s two years younger. Yes he is going to cost more. Colorado is a more offensive team in part BECAUSE of him.

            Calgary cannot keep all the prospects they have. Knight, Arnold, Reinhart, Sven, Poirier, Granlund, Gaudreau, etc.

            I think it would be wise to package one to get what I think could be a potential All star. Is it a risk… Yes.

            I think backlund is a great player but I don’t think he’ll ever be an All star. O’Rielly has that potential. just my opinion.

        • mattyc

          Backlund is a better possession player, and although his counting stats are lower than O’Rielly, Backlund also outscores the opposition by a significant margin when he’s on the ice (something O’Rielly fails to do). Backlund does this all while being the de-facto top line in Calgary, meaning he plays against the toughest matchups always, whereas O’Rielly puts up slightly inferior possession stats with a higher quality top 6.

          O’Rielly’s a really good hockey player, and has a longer track record than Backlund, but I’m not sure Backlund’s offensive ceiling is lower…

          • Jeff Lebowski

            Delusional. I’m glad you’re an accountant and not the GM of the Calgary Flames. I would do the deal in a minute and anyone with an ounce of hockey sense would do the same.

    • Parallex

      I’d do that deal but I’d insist on a negotiation window first… I don’t want to fight a arbitration case right off the bat and would rather have the security of a long-term deal in place. I love Mickis as much as anyone but O’Reilly really is that damn good.

      Although, I don’t think the Aves do that deal so point is moot.

      • Hacker

        yeah. I always try to view trades from the opposing teams perspective because it’s so easy to overvalue home team players.

        So in your opinion what do you think the trade value of O’Reilly would looks like?

        • Parallex

          For the Flames or just in general? Hard to say.

          In general I’d say young player, top tier prospect, low first round pick (Projected slot in the 15-25 Range) would be the stardard asking price. For the Flames the first round pick is a non-starter and the Aves would know that… so Backlund, Baertschi, 2nd round pick (2015) + Conditional 2nd round pick in 2016 (becomes 2015 4th round pick if the Flames finish lower then 21) maybe?

          O’Reilly is a 23 year old two-way center coming of a 28G/60P campaign the Aves just lost Stastny and want to win now… he’s not gonna be cheap.

  • Hacker

    The Flames would be crazy to do that deal. Backlund is just as good imo and Granlund looks like he will be good as well. He was really good with the Flames in his short time up last year.

  • mattyc

    Just for fun, here’s a player usage chart comparing Backlund and O’Reilly’s usage/performance.

    I also threw in Sam Gagner because Oilers fans constantly complained about him until any Flames fan mentioned the name Backlund, whereupon Gagner was suddenly the bee’s knees, and (just for Walter White) Justin Abdelkader, because WW thought the Flames should trade Mickis for him.

    Basically, Mickis had the best results of the four last season. By far.

    I will say, though, that O’Reilly played on one of the few teams worse than the Flames in possession and didn’t have the benefit of a Giordano/Brodie type defense pair behind him.

    • Captain Ron

      Thanks for helping to put that in better perspective for us. Big fan of Backlund and don’t want to see him go anywhere. When the team is good enough that he slots in as our second line center we should be back in the playoffs. When he gets bumped down to 3rd line center if Mono and Bennett (and /or next years 1st pick) meet our expectations we should be cup contenders if defence and goaltending is also in place. This is assuming he doesn’t develop further to suddenly become an 80 point player. In any event he is a very important part of the teams future.

      Also like O’Reilly too but don’t want to see a lopsided deal in their favor just to land him though.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Thanks for the data, its great and clearly demonstrates the points made i.e. the two being very close to equivalent depending on what you value most.

      Agree with some later comments that eventually we’ll need to do some packages but it may be early still. Just as long as a few spots are left open to allow the prospects to come up and get a chance to make it in the NHL. Hopefully that will happen this year.

      To get back to McDonald, liked the interview and what I saw of him at the development camp. I’m liking our line of goalies and just as long as we keep them developing it should be exciting. Also liked that he recognized a potential weakness, i.e. 5-hole which is something he can work on this coming year…

    • mattyc

      I think anyone would concede that O’Reilly is and always will be better than Backlund.

      The issue though is that Backlund is an average offensive player and elite defensive player. Those kinds of guys are valuable, difficult to find, and can be shockingly cheap to keep. Especially when they’re not 6’4″. If you’re Backlund’s size, with his speed, you’re immediately labelled as a two-way forward (supposing someone actually notices that you’re rather good at not getting scored on) and given the low offensive production, Backlund is regarded around the league well-below his actual value (especially by fans who still think Sam Gagner is better than he is).

      What I’m trying to say has, honestly, already been said. On the hypothetical cup-contending Flames, O’Reilly would likely fill the same role that Backlund would (awesome third line center). Would he be better? Sure. He’d also cost twice as much, and thus have a worse supporting cast (to say nothing of what it would cost to actually get him in the first place).

      I think both teams are better off keeping their players.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Mikael Backlund’s hands are always under rated by fans. I’m not only talking about his shot or sauce passes but also his ability to control the puck (stick handle on a phone book as Kerr would say, or dangle).

    When you play centre, and you have the ability to beat guys 1 on 1 you instantly become a threat to the opposing defensive ‘shape’.

    They immediately have to close down and you open two pass lanes. A guy walking down the middle of the ice is anxiety inducing and will cause chaos.

    Entering the zone with the puck on your stick and then having the vision to dish or skill to keep it and cycle is what makes Backlund a strong possession player.

    Under Hartley, he finally popped last year. A full year with a confident Backlund is what many have been waiting for.

    Backlund, to me is a 20 goal 40-50 assist guy all while doing that against top lines starting in his own end. Because of his hands. Because he MAKES PLAYS.

    You can never have enough guys who can make plays. Only teams that think Steve Yzerman shouldn’t play on team Canada because you have Gretzky and Lemieux already would not see the value of Backlund.

    Only people who think the LA Kings aren’t built with 4 guys in the middle of the ice who can makes plays but built from the goalie out (so effectively built to play in their own end and be good at absorbing shots) would want to get rid of an extremely effective player (plus Granlund?!? ) for a guy way more expensive and not that much better IMO.

  • mattyc

    I think another general comment I have is that we need to chill out on the prospects. When I see things like (don’t mean to pick on you Dave, we’ve all been doing it):

    Calgary cannot keep all the prospects they have. Knight, Arnold, Reinhart, Sven, Poirier, Granlund, Gaudreau, etc.

    We need to remember that they’re not NHL players yet, and lots of them (even the good ones) won’t ever make it. We have lots of lottery tickets, but they’re still tickets. I think it’s prudent to keep stockpiling them, and not just go “well Arnold will be our 3rd line center in 2 years, so we need to make room”.

    • mattyc

      I agree this this whole heartedly. That’s why I’m wondering if it’s better to convert some lottery tickets into actual known assets. Granlund may be a perennial 20 goal scorer or he may never reach that mark. No body knows.

      I think there is a valid argument to be made regarding keeping Backlund. I am just curious what the tone is among flames fans with regards to O’Reilly and what it would take to pry him from the Avalanche.

      The other thing is that in 2 Years he will likely be a FA and the flames can offer him a contract then.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        Backlund, Monahan, Bennett and Jankowski (I continue to be a huge supporter of Janko – I think he is going to be a great NHLer with a ton of utility – but it will be slower to come) down the middle is where the excitement lies for me.

        Bennett is a tip of the spear kind of guy -get in the fight-, Monahan is the guy throwing the spear while the other two will be left to beat their matchups.

        6’0, 6’3, 6’1, 6’4

        Smart, skilled, humble and relentless (Sounds like a description of Sid! – I think Sid, the essence of him: smart, skilled etc, was Feaster’s template). Who will just feed off each other, push each other, compete for ice time with each other… omg!

        That doesn’t even include Johnny (also smart, skilled, humble etc) or the others with potential.

        This team is (obviously if all goes to plan) going to make plays and be fuuuuuunnnnn to watch!

        What happens when you put a bunch of high hockey IQ on the ice together? The Feaster experiment.

        What then happens if you can add the talent of 2015 to this mix?

      • everton fc

        To add to the commentary above, Sven may be as good an example as any. He’s a prospect, but has not proven himself, even at the AHL-level. Granlund had a nice little run, as did Reinhart, who seems to be missing in many comments of late. Reinhart may end up a career 4th-liner at this level. He may indeed have the most potential to transition to a regular role in the league. Or he could have a ceiling similar to Bouma’s. We never know. Arnold may never play in the league. He’s certainly a long shot, even though I like him lots. Ceiling perhaps like Bouma. Maybe. I find myself thinking back to Oleg Saprykin, Lombardi, and so on.

        Gaudreau, of the group, and maybe Poirier, have the most value in the open market at the moment. In my opinion. Not worth much, of course!

        Back to Macdonald, I like him as an interview. Seems overly articulate, poised, mature. Seems a risky #2 pick, though. I hope he does well. Obviously. But I think there were other options I would have preferred. So many d-men taken in that second round. We are not “deep” between the pipes, with prospects or otherwise. Might as well stockpile. He [Macdonald] certainly seems a mature young man. With character. Or so it seems.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Instead of lottery tickets, I think of them more like poker chips. A lot of our current chips are like the $500 dollar chips. Because they have potential to do what is the hardest thing to do in NHL – score goals- Why Sid gets paid like he does.

      You can cash a $500 chip for 5 $100 chips etc…

      A lottery ticket implies you hit or you bust. Not necessarily the case with guys who might not fulfill potential of consistent scorer but will contribute in the NHL nonetheless just in a different role.

      The draft is the chance to collect poker chips… why not snap up the $500 ones?

  • MonsterPod

    O’Reilly is a stud, but why does he have so much trouble with management? Is he a bit egotistical, greedy, or what?

    Maybe it’s not him. Perhaps it’s his agent, but he had this problem with the previous GM as well as the new one. Makes me wonder what kind of problems we would have with him a few years down the road if he was a Flame.

    • I can well imagine problems coming when the Flames offer Backs his next contract this year or next. As many fans here have ackowledged,Back,s brings those intangible assets that are sometimes hard to analyze ,or get an accurate account of. I highly doubt his agent will be looking to accept a bargain type deal, and I agree.

      I was noticing on these blogs that no-one was including DJones on there mock player lines.
      He’s got a great gig, making 500 thousand a month with no expectations from the fans or management.

      • jeremywilhelm

        Actually, what Backlund brings to the table is neither hard to analyze nor difficult to get an accurate account of.

        The advanced stats community has been doing both of those things for several years. Nothing Backlund does is intangible, they are actually quite tangible.

        • jeremywilhelm

          The intangible I was referring to was points.I don’t believe that the managers around the league use advanced stats alone to place a value on a player.Back,s advanced stat,s would suggest he belongs with the elite players in the league, which is my belief as well.I could be wrong but I just can’t see Flames management offering up a elite type contract in this case, and it has the potential to get messy.

    • I think Colorado operates with an internal cap. Maybe not now with the new ownership, but they certainly did at one point.

      One thing I like about this Mason McDonald character (aside from his “character” har har) is the fact that every scouting report–like, literally every single one–identifies him as a project. It isn’t like the constant “This guy’s a LEGEND! He’s totally a sure thing! The reincarnation of Patrick Roy!” noise we heard about Zach Fucale in spite of his consistently ghastly results. One reason I was so relieved when the Flames didn’t take Fucale: there’s no evidence that he’s any good. At least McDonald had a fantastic U18 tournament. Fucale doesn’t even have that much.

      To put it another way, I’d much rather have Klimchuk and McDonald than Fucale and Roland McKeown. Or whoever.

      Anyway. Just thought I’d share.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        That project statement stuck out with me as well, and I appreciated it for the same reason.

        I really wonder who made this pick though, and I really hope it was the scouting staff.

  • I think the Ryan O’Reilly banter has overwhelmed the discussion about the Flames second round selection of Mason Macdonald.

    This will be about the pick and not the ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ back and forth about a player that is not likely to ever wear Flames silks!

    There have been a lot of comments about why the Flames decided to choose a goaltender at 34 rather than waiting until later in the draft. I have no difficulty with them having done so, being of the school that it generally takes goalies longer to get to the Show. And with the potential (and that’s all you are drafting, right?) of this young man, we really cannot judge this pick for 4 to 5 seasons. Macdonald will have at least one more year in the Q followed by an apprenticeship in the AHL.

    • T&A4Flames

      I fully expected CGY to draft a goalie, just to keep the prospect depth deep, after trading Broissoit. I just didn’t expect one with such a high pick when, IMO, there were much greater needs that needed filling. Next to goaltenders, D take the longest to develop and are the next hardest position players to gauge. So why not throw more darts at a position where you need a minimum 6 to fill a line up?

      Also, picking another North American goalie starts to overload at the developmental levels like the AHL. We could have waited until the 6th or even 7th round and grabbed a decent European goalie that would not necessarily need to come to the AHL to develop. Ortio had a few good years in Europe and now that he’s close, he’s here touching up his game on NA ice. A 6th round pick by the way.

      That said, I like what I’m seeing and hearing from and about this kid. But I still would rather have McKeown and/or Glover. In fact, we could have had McKeown, Glover and Smith and maybe still could have gotten Hickey instead of trading the last 3rd for Bollig.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think Mcdonald is a solid pick, good head on his shoulders & hope he can keep developing to get fans excited with anticipation. He has that potential to do that. Nice kid, pleased to have him on board.

    AS for ROR. Would love to get him but shudder at the thought of what it will take. Colorado fans would be content with an Eberle for ROR straight up swap. Their centres are set for their top 2 lines in Duchesne & Mckinnon. This debate about Backlund is mute because no way they trade ROR for a 3rd line centre as the centre piece. Granlund at this point is just a decent prospect & a 2015 2nd is nothing.

    Left wing they just have Landeskog & Tanfag.
    Sven is a definite piece. I think a 2016 1st round pick is going to be mandatory on the price tag & they will probably want 1 more piece. And that will be a proven immediate piece & I suspect it would be on defence. They will ask for Brodie, of which BT will hurl. But they need help on the blueline. The only two worthy of a ROR return are Brodie & Gio. So a team like Calgary would probably opt for Gio. I doubt not much else needs to go with Gio in that package, maybe a good prospect we all are pumped about but not NHL proven yet, Sven?. Are we prepared to part with Gio to get ROR. The guys in Vegas would say take the 22 year old but top 3 pick next year, here we come. I think we are just too soon for this kind of trade because we have too many $100.00 poker chips that have a chance of being worth $250 or more next year if things go right.
    Stay the course, it’s the right thing to do.

  • Any talk about this kid for years to come is gonna be about how we used a 2nd on him. Holy hell boys, we get it…..I fee like I’m having de ja vu.

    Talk about something you haven’t stated 50 times WW.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Even better than trading Backlund for O’reilly? Keeping Backlund and trading for ROR then playing them on the same line and having an absolutely dominant line when you add basically anyone on the right hand side.

    I would move anyone on the team not named Backlund, Brodie, Giordano and prospects Gaudreau, Bennet, Monahan, Poirier for ROR.

    ROR’s early going in the NHL is very reminiscent of Claude Giroux’s underlying numbers in his ability to keep the puck moving in the right direction.

    • jeremywilhelm

      If Backlund is out of the question to acquire RoR what would you trade and what do you realistically think Colorado would accept. I see RoR being moved but I suspect that there are other teams in the hunt with bigger names being dangled. Ie the Jets and Kane, or friends to the north with either Yakapov or Eberle as the starting pieces in the discussion.

    • T&A4Flames

      who would you propose to trade for him then? Stajan? Smid? Your list of untouchables includes at least 4 players under ROR, but I’m sure Colorado will be licking their chops for Wideman and a 3rd. If we’re going to talk trade let’s at least be reasonable.

    • loudogYYC

      I agree, which is why it would be smart to extend him now to a long term deal at around $3.5-4M/season and reap the benefit for years. Risky move for a new GM though so I doubt it’ll happen this year.

  • T&A4Flames

    Personally, I don’t think there’s a trade to be had between Calgary and Colorado. Both teams need the same thing–a defenseman.

    We can talk about Backlund all we want, but I can guarantee you that when the Flames ask about O’Reilly the first name out of the Avs’ mouth is “Brodie”. And that should be a non-starter.

    • MonsterPod

      I’d give a big fat ‘no’ to Brodie in any trade.

      But the situation in Colorado is interesting.

      Duschene, MacKinnon, O’Reilly down the middle would be one of the best center cores in the league.

      But Duschene and MacKinnon may each be 8M a season in a few years. They don’t want to be paying their 3rd line center 6M. And putting him on the wing is a waste of his talents like Torts putting Kesler with the Sedins.

      We all agree Backlund is turning into an excellent 3rd. He would fit in well in Colorado and would be cheaper than ROR. They may trade with us if we throw in Baertschi and a 3rd.

      But would I make that trade? I dunno. With Monahan and Bennett we’d be putting ourselves in the same situation that Col is in now. If we had won the lottery and taken Ekblad and we just had Monahan, then yeah I would probably pull the trigger. (Armchair!)

  • MonsterPod

    I like ROR a lot, but the price will be too high.

    Backlund is 1/2 right now because we’re rebuilding, but with his defensive responsibility, he’s an ideal 3rd line shut down center.

    Bennett is not a 3rd. Neither is Monahan.

    So in a few years it will hopefully be Bennett — Monahan — Backlund.

    If we like the looks of that, then paying a huge price for ROR doesn’t make a ton of sense.

      • MonsterPod

        Well valuations are based on markets and I believe ROR does not have a NTC.

        The returns for Kesler and Spezza were not great because they got to choose the team.

        About 25 teams bidding for ROR? Yes, it is assumption, but I’m assuming the bidding would get high.