Scouting takeaways from the Memorial Cup: Mason McTavish is NHL ready

Cam MacDonald led the way with a goal and two assists and William Dufour, Josh Lawerence and Peter Reynolds added a goal and an assist each as the Saint John Sea Dogs defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 to win the Memorial Cup Championship.

The host Saint John Sea Dogs defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 on Wednesday night to claim the 102nd the Memorial Cup. Although the tournament was played much later than usual due to the pandemic, it was fantastic to see the event being hosted in one of the most enjoyable CHL cities in Canada.

If you haven’t traveled to the east coast of Canada, I recommend adding Saint John, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and Cape Breton to your bucket list of CHL cities to visit in the future. If you enjoy seafood, great music, and the occasional adult beverage, Maritimers know how to throw a party!

With the Memorial Cup behind us, there are no more major events between now and the NHL Draft next week. With summer upon us, here are some players who caught my eye over the course of the tournament:

Drafted by NY Islanders, fifth round (152nd overall) in 2020.

Dufour had a breakout year in the regular season scoring 56 goals and 116 points in 66 games and then was named MVP of the QMJHL. He was also named MVP of the Memorial Cup after scoring seven goals and eight points in four games played.

Not every prospect develops the same way. Some are pro ready earlier than others. Dufour is an example of a player who has been polarizing over the years. He’s been traded several times in the Q and never seemed entirely comfortable with his surroundings until this year.

The 6-foot-3, 204-pound winger has a pro release. There is no question he knows how to score goals. He has a heavy, accurate shot that beats goalies from range. His size is also a plus in the hard areas when extending plays and distributing in traffic. His skating needs to improve another 20 per cent for the NHL game, though. Will he be Arthur Kaliyev or Matthew Strome at the next level?

Dufour's development path has been a winding road, but he deserves credit for a great season. Hopefully this is the start of great things in the future.

Undrafted free agent signing by Montreal in 2021.

Full disclosure: I have a scout's crush on Arber. How can you not? This is a player who was a free agent when he made the Kitchener Rangers. He wasn’t drafted by an NHL team, but earned a contract from Montreal after a strong showing at their training camp in 2021. He is the poster player for perseverance and character.

Arber is a big, strong, two-way defenceman. He’s 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, mobile, tough, and he moves the puck efficiently to chip in with some secondary offence.

At the Memorial Cup Xhekaj’s game reminded me a lot of Ben Chiarot (when he was with the Habs and playing at his best). He was used in all situations, contributed five assists in five games, and played with an intimidating presence.

Montreal has found a potential NHL defenceman for free. I’m looking forward to monitoring Arber’s development at the pro level. We already know he’s going to put in the work to reach his goal.

Drafted by the St. Louis Blues, first round (26th overall) in 2020.

The kind of player scouts describe as a “swiss army knife.” Jake does a bit of everything and can play up and down the lineup.

He only scored one goal in three games at the Memorial Cup. The group looked like it ran out of gas as a team. However, my takeaway on Neighbours is still positive. He emptied the tank every time he hit the ice and gave the Oil Kings all he had. He played fast and was involved physically. Neighbours is a tenacious forward who projects to be a second- or third-line NHL player on a good team. The Oil Kings could have used more offence off his stick last week, but there is no question he played with passion and compete.

Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, first round (third overall) in 2021.

For those who expected even more from McTavish at the Memorial Cup, consider his hockey journey in 2021-22: McTavish played games for Anaheim (NHL), San Diego (AHL), Team Canada (Olympic Games), Peterborough (OHL) and Hamilton (OHL).

I’m not sure if the kid is collecting air miles or hotel points, but he should have earned some free nights and flights with all of his travel this past season.

He emptied the tank at the Memorial Cup. After a bit of a slow start, he went to another level in the semis and final. He gave opponents all they could handle in the hard areas and showed off his quick stick and puck skill. McTavish ended the tournament with six goals and eight points. He’s pro ready and should get full time NHL minutes with the Ducks next season.

Drafted by the Dallas Stars, first round (30th overall) in 2020.

When I was the Director of Scouting with the Florida Panthers I travelled to Shawinigan to see Mavrik play in the fall of 2019. Our regional scout, Dillon Donnelly, had taken a shine to Bourque early that season and believed in his compete and skill. Bourque suffered an injury that night and ended up in the stands halfway through the game. Between the second and third period we spoke with Bourque. I can’t recall the specifics relating to his injury so I’m going to describe it as an “upper body” injury. The kid stated to me he needed to get stronger so these kinds of setbacks don’t occur as he matures as a player. He told me he plays a skilled game, but doesn’t back down from traffic and competing.

Fast forward to this Memorial Cup, and Bourque plays the game the exact way he described to me in the fall of 2019. He left it all on the ice in the tournament, scoring two goals and seven points. He seemed to have the puck on his stick every shift. On the power play he was equal parts shooter and distributor from the flank. I love the way Bourque plays. He’s the kind of player who is willing to carry a team on his back.

Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, first round (15th overall) in 2021.

Cossa is a big human. An athletic 6-foot-6 goalie who has the potential to develop into an NHL No. 1.

His Memorial Cup, for me, was uneven. Cossa came up with some big saves, but also allowed some goals he would admit were weak.

Goalies tend to take longer to develop. Cossa needs time to clean up some of his unnecessary habits. At his size there is no reason for him to play outside the blue paint of his crease. When he does, his size becomes less of an advantage when pucks spill to the side of the net and he has to travel further to make a save. His rebound control was off in this tournament as well. Lastly, when he went paddle down on wrap arounds or “stuff” plays he failed to get his stick in position or his pads tight to the ice.

Cossa is a Grade A goalie prospect who, it appears, ran out of gas at the Memorial Cup. When he is on his game, he’s plenty quick for his stature, keeps pucks closer to his body, and moves laterally with more precision. He needs time.

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, second round (48th overall) in 2020.

There was a time I was concerned about Mysak’s willingness to get to pucks along the boards and extend or make plays. He has always displayed solid skill. He’s not an intimidating player, but he’s not small either (6-feet, 180 pounds). He only produced two goals in five Memorial Cup gamesm but it wasn’t for lack of effort and involvement.

Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, first round (22nd overall) in 2021.

Bourgault and Bourque fed off each other for Shawinigan. They have similar attributes.

Bourgault ended the Memorial Cup with two goald and seven points and was a threat off the rush and on the PP. I appreciate his skill. He’s quick off the mark and has the kind of skill to beat opponents one-on-one in open ice and tight quarters.

Drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights, fourth round (128th overall) in 2021.

Demek will have to work on his foot speed to have a chance at becoming a pro in North America. He does, however, have an understanding of how to play on the defensive side of the puck and he’s fantastic in the face-off circle. He won 47 draws in three games at the Memorial Cup. Teams want to start with the puck off face-offs, so he has some attractive elements that can contribute to team success.

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, first round (16th overall) in 2020.

It seemed like Guhle never left the ice in the tournament. He logged big minutes in all situations and contributed three assists in three games.

I did feel like Guhle was trying to do too much at times and his detail suffered overall. He found himself above the puck occasionally in his zone and forced some plays in the offensive zone. Having said that he is an elite skater who is highly competitive and can be deployed in a variety of roles. He’s a Grade A prospect who could end up being a top pairing NHL defenceman in time.

Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, fourth round (122nd overall) in 2020.

I felt William played a low risk and efficient game at the Memorial Cup. His outlets were clean and he skated some pucks at times as well. He seems to be rounding into a two-way defence prospect who won’t jump out with an elite element in any one category, but could provide a responsible game defensively.

Drafted by the Calgary Flames, third round (72nd overall) in 2020.

There was a time I was very concerned about the high risk game that Poirier played. Defending and detail seemed to be an afterthought dating back a few years. Fast forward to today and I see a player who has scaled back some of his risk and plays with more detail, but still has the ability to create offence. He produced one goal and three points at the Memorial Cup. Poirier could end up being a nice find for the Flames.

The CHL season has finally come to an end. The last couple years have been difficult on the players, organizations, and the scouting fraternity. I could have written reports on many more deserving players from this tournament. Congratulations to the CHL and Saint John, New Brunswick for getting the Memorial Cup back on schedule.

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