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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: Mason McDonald

There’s always a fear around drafting goaltenders high. Although goaltending is not voodoo, NHL success at the goalie position is more difficult to project than forwards and defencemen.

Flames 2014 second round pick Mason McDonald is a case of balancing hype versus actual performance. The netminder was one of the most hyped heading into the draft, but has seemingly fallen on his face in the pros. His first season could arguably be written off due to him being a rookie, but his sophomore year has reinforced doubts, especially given the rise of Tyler Parsons.

Background

As a junior, McDonald had plenty of hype behind his name. He had some mixed success at the QMJHL level, but a very strong performance at the U18 WJC and a post trade revival in Charlottestown moved him up the draft boards. He was ranked #2 for North American goalies and various scouting services placed him as a second rounder. Appropriately, the Flames picked him up in that round for the 2014 draft.

Things looked better in his draft+1 year. McDonald played 56 games for the Islanders, finishing third in SV% among QMJHL goalies who played more than 20 games. His strong performances earned him an invite to Hockey Canada’s summer camp and potentially a WJC spot.

Somewhere in his D+2 year, the wheels came off for McDonald. Although still nominally the starter for Charlottestown, he lost 17 starts (to a 5’8, 16-year-old rookie) as he battled some minor injuries and some shaky play. He did make Canada’s WJC team, but only started two games where he looked okay at best.

His first year of pro hockey was also rough. The Halifax product played the most out of any Adirondack Thunder goalie, but frequently lost the net to journeymen like J.P. Anderson and Ken Appleby. He finished the season with a .897 SV% and didn’t really make any impressions.

2017-18 story

The Flames swapping ECHL affiliates opened up an opportunity for McDonald: the team would no longer have to split affiliations with the New Jersey Devils, allowing them to have more control over the roster. This would mean that McDonald would no longer have to sit for a Devils prospect, like what happened with Appleby the year before. There was the opportunity for more playing time and potentially the starter’s spot.

The downside for McDonald was that he faced tough competition for that spot against Parsons. In the early goings of the season, McDonald lost out thanks to Parsons playing lights out hockey. Although injury opened up that starter’s spot, McDonald wasn’t really that impressive. He also had a brief stint with the Heat while the Flames’ goalie situation was a mess, but didn’t really make an impression. In Stockton, he suffered an injury and only came back for the final few games of Kansas City’s season.

The numbers

GP MIN SV% SA GA SV% rank (/41) SA rank GA rank
ECHL 27 1538 .894 762 81 40 40 11
AHL 4 224.35 .875 104 13 did not qualify dnq dnq

McDonald struggled through the early part of the season, but seemed to have found a rhythm later on. Then he got injured and we didn’t hear from him for a while.

And that’s probably the only promising thing about McDonald’s season: he got hot for a few games. Throughout the year, he was one of the worst ECHL goalies among those that played 1,440 minutes (about 24 games, ECHL’s definition of qualified). He ranks next to last in save percentage despite an also next to last workload. He didn’t see that much action, but he didn’t really deserve that much more action.

McDonald’s main problem is that he’s just consistently a below average goalie. Nine of his starts fall above the .915 SV% line, which generally signifies a great performance, but five of his starts fall below the .850 SV% line, which is the opposite of a great performance. The remaining 12 fall between the two. For comparison, Parsons had 14 starts above .915 SV% and seven in each of the other two categories. Parsons may not have been consistent in his appearances, but still kept his team in the game for the most part. The same can’t be said for McDonald.

I wouldn’t read into his AHL time too much, as he pretty much got thrown in cold and then got injured (not to mention a four-game sample size), but he still wasn’t that great there.

The future

McDonald will probably stay put in Kansas City for next season, getting the majority of starts while Nick Schneider backs him up. Sorry, Mavs fans.

It’s his last year of his ELC, which is pretty bad news when you consider the Flames’ goalie depth (if their drafting history remains true, they’re probably drafting another goalie this year). McDonald hasn’t really proven any of his doubters wrong during his pro tenure: he’s been a below average goalie in a weak league. He already has lost his job to a 19-year-old rookie in Parsons, who has pretty much turned McDonald into an organizational afterthought.

Unless McDonald takes a major step forward, he’s likely done with the org after next season. It’s hard to quantify exactly how major this step needs to be, but he basically needs to play his way into the Rittich/Gillies/Parsons conversation. Given his career history, he would have to go back to his 18-year-old self. That’s going to be a lot of work and also extremely unlikely.

Previously

Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov

  • freethe flames

    I would sign Faranger to a deal; just in case both he and Schneider struggle. So much depends on what happens up stream. If as EF suggests that BT and BP are happy with either Rittich or Gilles as the back up to Smith whoever wins the job then the other one will be the starter for the Heat with Parsons as the back up. Faranger is your AHL insurance package.

  • The GREAT WW

    “The netminder was one of the most hyped heading into the draft”

    No he wasn’t; Demko had all the hype but our GM/Burke thought they were smarter than anyone else……

    WW

    • supra steve

      Unfortunately, when the Flames take the top guy (Trevor Kidd), history dictates the 2nd rated tender (Brodeur) would have been the better pick. And when they take the 2nd rated guy (McDonald)…well they get McDonald.
      As for Demko, I know he’s one of your favorite outrages, his AHL numbers so far look a lot like Jon Gillies’ numbers, and I’m not at all sure that Gillies will become much of an NHL goalie.

        • supra steve

          Well, with the advantage of hindsight, who the hell wouldn’t at this point?
          That being the case, who would you select between Kidd and Brodeur? 🙂

          • supra steve

            “just about everyone in the world”

            You don’t think that may be just a bit of an exageration? I do.
            Every year, some players go sooner/or later than the consensus. McDonald was the consensus 2nd best goalie prospect. Consensus is just an average of many opinions, and obviously some of those opinions will differ and at least one had McDonald above Demko.

            Would I rather, now, have Demko than McDonald?…yes
            Would I rather have Pasternak than Bennett?…yes, but that would have required ignoring the consensus.
            Would I rather have Scheifele than Bartschi?…yes, again the consensus was wrong, and the Jets listened to their scouts.
            Would I rather have Tkachuk than Puljujarvi?…yes
            Consensus can be wrong. If you trust your scouting staff, you have to listen to them, and like anyone else, sometimes they will be right/sometimes they will be wrong.
            With the McDonald pick, the Flames scouts turned uot to be wrong.

          • kirby

            It’s obviously a figure of speech, but at the same time no it’s really not much of an exaggeration at all.

            Yes i get the concept that the top ranked doesn’t always turn out to be the best. Hindsight is 20/20. All those other tired ol’ cliches. I get it.

            Just making the point that just about everybody in the know believed Demko to have the stronger skill set and the better probability of projecting as an NHL talent. I, along with many many many other people, were baffled at the Flames having the chance to take him and choosing McDonald instead. I didn’t get mad or upset about the pick, i said “alright let’s see what’s up with this, maybe they know something about McDonald that we don’t”, and here we are years later with him not even playing at a quality ECHL level.

            So yeah, in THIS case, not every other random case of one player later in a draft being better than an earlier selection, it was a pretty obvious choice that proved to be unsurprisingly and blatantly WRONG.

            It’s not like a pool of 15 forwards with similar rankings where one turns out to be better than another. It was a pool of TWO (maybe three if you include Nedeljkovic) where ONE was the clear cut top choice at his position to just about everyone. Seems like you’re reaching for a bit of false equivalency here.

    • Baalzamon

      Maybe you should read quotes before you slam them. It says “one of” the most hyped, not THE Most hyped. And that is a fact. McDonald was pretty much universally the #2 ranked goalie in that draft. Which, by definition, makes him one of the most hyped goalies in the draft.

  • supra steve

    “if their drafting history remains true, they’re probably drafting another goalie this year”
    One bright spot…with no 2nd or 3rd round picks, they can’t waste one on a tender this summer.