To say there is mutual admiration between Ducks rookie center Mason McTavish and Columbus Blue Jackets rookie forward Kent Johnson, well, really is something of an understatement.

McTavish on Johnson’s NHL ceiling: “It’s high. Just the way he carries the puck, it looks so effortless and smooth. I see some (Patrick) Kane in him. I hope he has that good a career. So would he, I’m sure.”

Johnson on McTavish’s rapid ascent to first-line center: “No it doesn’t surprise me. He’s a really good player. Coming from juniors is a pretty big jump to the NHL. I knew it wouldn’t take him too long.”

McTavish and Johnson were teammates as recently as August when they led Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton. And they were the two youngest forwards on the Team Canada squad that lost to Sweden in the 2022 Olympic quarterfinals in Beijing.

Now comes a special first meeting in the NHL between the friends with the last-place Blue Jackets hosting the Ducks, who are 30th overall, on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.

“A couple of weeks ago, I saw it on the schedule and I thought, ‘Oh that will be fun to have him come into town and play him,’” Johnson said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’m excited. Obviously, I love playing with him, but it’ll be cool to play against him and hopefully get the better of him.”

Wednesday was an off day for both teams and Johnson said he would be seeing McTavish later in the day. McTavish was second in the league’s rookie scoring race with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists), nine points behind the leader Matty Beniers of Seattle, heading into Wednesday’s slate of games. Johnson is tied for sixth with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists).

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McTavish said recently that he was keeping track of Johnson’s results when he was asked about other top NHL rookies. It is a bit more difficult for Johnson to watch Ducks home games because of the time zone difference.

“I try not to stay up too late to watch,” Johnson said. “Sometimes I’ll watch the first period. And when they’re on the East Coast, I’ll watch one of their games. But I’m always looking at his stats after every game, checking to see if he’s got a point or whatnot. Good to see his highlights. He’s had some good one-timers on the power play. It’s good to see he’s doing all the things he can do at this level.”

Before the Ducks left on their six-game trip, McTavish broke down Johnson’s impressive shootout goal against Carolina on Jan. 7

Kent Johnson is too smooth in the shootout pic.twitter.com/Cjf599Egcw

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 8, 2023

“I’ve seen him do that quite a bit of times,” McTavish said. “That’s his move.”

Would he try to copy it?

“Ah, no. That’s too much edge work for me,” he said. “I normally just go low blocker or five hole – keep it simple. That’s pretty sweet.”

Indeed, the ceiling is high …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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