Historically, the Flames have had bad luck with goalies that they’ve drafted early in the NHL Draft. Since moving to Calgary, the club has drafted six goalies in the first two rounds that didn’t amount to very much (of Jason Muzzatti, Trevor Kidd, Evan Lindsay, Brent Krahn, Andrei Medvedev and Leland Irving, only Kidd was a significant NHLer).
While it’s too early to tell how 2016 second rounder Tyler Parsons will turn out, two seasons after being drafted 2014 pick Mason McDonald has experienced some ups and downs at the junior level and faces a pretty big 2016-17 season as he finally goes pro. The Halifax-born goalkeeper is the 17th-ranked prospect on this year’s FlamesNation prospect rankings. He was 16th last year.
A brief history
Originally with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL, McDonald was traded to the Charlottetown Islanders during his draft year and ended up going 34th overall to the Flames in the 2014 NHL Draft – the first of a run of goalies in the second round that year. (Vancouver took Thatcher Demko at 36th overall and Carolina took Alex Nedeljkovic at 37th.)
Statistically, McDonald has been described as a goalie who’s “good for the QMJHL.” In his draft-eligible season, he played 29 games with a .900 save percentage. In his two post-draft seasons he’s played a season of 56 games (with a .906) and another of 39 games (with a .902). He’s improving by drips and drabs statistically and he’s consistently been in the main pack of “good” QMJHL goalies in that regard.
But aside from an appearance with Team Canada at last year’s World Juniors there hasn’t been anything that indicates that he’s turned a corner and become a dominant netminder at the junior level.
Future Considerations scout Scott Wheeler has a pretty straight-forward assessment of McDonald’s season (and development):
“His season started well but
he didn’t pick up his play as much as you’d hope. In general, Mason’s
growth has been more stunted than you’d like out of a top prospect. The
Islanders are a team, especially this year, that has struggled mightily
defensively though and he has been forced to make huge saves on a
regular basis. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here, as
his pro career is around the corner.
“For a 6’4 goalie, Mason’s biggest attribute is
his athleticism. He does an outstanding job moving on his edges to make
saves that most goalies wouldn’t otherwise make. And while he has above
average positioning, he can tend to give up too many rebounds by
overextending, or pushing too hard and being forced out of potential
saves on the second chance opportunities. This isn’t uncommon among
young goalies though. He could also stand to improve blocker side — he
tends to go down too early.”
Flames player-development coach Ray Edwards noted that the goal for the next year with McDonald will be to get him acclimated to the pro game by having him play as much as possible. Coming from the relatively wide-open QMJHL, McDonald will likely have to some some adjustments to get used to the more structured pro style and continue along in his development this season. The nice thing is that his first season of pro hockey presents a blank slate for McDonald.
“Moving into camp, it’s all new. The
past is the past. He’ll move past junior as quickly as he can. The
numbers and the goals against and all that, it’s so far in the
rear-view mirror now. The pro game is a little bit more controlled; obviously the structure is a little bit tighter so they have to make
different adjustments because of that.”
What comes next?
McDonald is a 1996-born goalie, so he’d be an overager if he went back to the Q next season. He’s also under an entry-level deal that’s already slid, and so the first season of the deal will be burnt whether or not he even plays pro. Because of that, and because of repeated indications in that direction by the Flames organization, the expectation is that he’ll go pro in 2016-17.
With David Rittich and Jon Gillies likely penciled in for spots in Stockton (and the organization’s focus on getting Gillies lots of starts this season), expect to see McDonald start the year in Adirondack of the ECHL. The likely hope is that he can get a lot of starts with the Thunder, gain a lot of confidence, and potentially push for a spot in the AHL before too long.
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