Via Hockey Canada
The NHL has Stanley Cup contenders and basement teams every season. The Anaheim Ducks find themselves somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – as a rebuilder. For a team that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since the 2018-2019 season, and for a team which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2017, the Anaheim Ducks have quite the prospect pool – which makes perfect sense given the quality of the players which they’ve drafted in that span. The Ducks’ prospect pool is a deep one, and four of its members played in games at the 2022 World Junior Championships, which took place in Alberta, Canada this August. We’ll review their performances below.
Forward Mason McTavish; Team Canada
The tournament’s MVP scored at a ridiculous pace this tournament. With eight goals and 17 points in only seven games, Mason McTavish finished the tournament 1st in points. 2nd in points was Finland’s Joakim Kemell, who recorded 12 points. While a five-point margin may not seem that great, one must take into account that both players played the maximum amount of games possible: seven.
In the round-robin, during a game against Team Slovakia, McTavish became just the 7th team Canada player to score four goals in a game. It’s his shot, skill, and determination (though we’ll circle back to that later) that made such a performance possible.
McTavish loves to carry the puck, and does it at such a skillful level that he rarely turns it over. A shoot-first player by nature, McTavish can make a seam-pass brilliantly, as he showed his teammates (and opponents) time and time again while playing on the first power-play unit, as well as on a line with phenom Connor Bedard at even-strength play.
The 2021 3rd overall selection won’t quite be remembered for any of that, however. Here’s where we circle back to his determination: during the Gold Medal Game against Team Finland, in overtime, with the game practically over and the Canadians ten minutes away from having a silver medal placed around their necks, McTavish blocks a Finnish shot that has goaltender Dylan Garand beat. Bedard tries to fend off a Finnish fore-checker, the game seemingly over; until McTavish knocks the puck down out of mid-air while it’s above the goal-line. Being arguably the biggest transitional play in World Junior’s history, play ensues, and shortly thereafter, Kent Johnson receives a nice pass from Logan Stankoven, and makes no mistake, ending the game. Talk about a plot twist.
You could say that Mason McTavish is not only a shoot-first player by nature, but a 200-foot player as well.
Defenseman Olen Zellweger; Team Canada
We mentioned McTavish as being 1st in points and Kemell being 2nd. Here’s where the 3rd place scorer comes in: defenseman Olen Zellweger. Not only was Zellweger Canada’s top minute-cruncher among their defense-corps, Zellweger was one of the tournament’s most consistent scorers, recording nine assists and 11 points in seven games. An offensive defenseman who sees the ice well and can play big minutes, Zellweger was the only defenseman on the top powerplay unit, and stayed there throughout the tournament.
The 34th overall pick in 2021, Zellweger will turn 19 on September 10th, meaning he’ll be eligible to return at the 2023 World Juniors, which is scheduled to be held in late December to early January in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Zellweger will seek to produce offensively again, and all-the-while, finding his teammates for goals.
Forward Sasha Pastujov; Team USA
Though it’s still too early to tell, Sasha Pastujov may be one of the 2021 draft’s biggest draft steals. A player who has a knack for producing, Pastujov did just that at this tournament, though not quite at the rate at which he produced with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, Pastujov recorded one goal and four points in five games. He is eligible to return at the 2023 World Juniors, and would undoubtedly be poised for a better showing, though a point-per-game rate of .80 is nothing to laugh at. The hallmark of Pastujov’s game are his quick deceptive dekes he pulls off relative to the pace of the play; relative to where his opponents are situated on the ice. He uses skillful weight-displacement to throw opponents off, and will look to improve on these near-perfect abilities throughout the first-half of the OHL season before the 2023 tournament begins. Good board play and puck retrieval from Pastujov can improve possession metrics and can create scoring chances and hopefully, more goals from Pastujov the next time around.
Defenseman Ian Moore; Team USA
A depth defenseman on Team USA, 2020 3rd round pick Ian Moore recorded one assist in five games. A solid two-way defender, Moore stands at 6’3″, 185 lbs, and is good at breaking up attempted zone entries by his opponents. His ability to generate offence is equally as impressive given his smooth skating, which may be the foundation of his game. A good prospect-comparable is Ryan Johnson, the Buffalo Sabres’ 2019 1st round pick. Moore is 20 years of age, so he’ll be unable to participate in the 2023 tournament. However, Ducks fans don’t need to worry, as Moore is committed to Harvard of the NCAA, where he played during the 2021-2022 season, and took his two-way game to the next level.