Many different kits for Mason McTavish’s Hamilton Bulldogs center.

It is estimated that McTavish had over 150 different teammates playing for six different teams this season.

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SAINT JOHN, North Carolina. Hamilton Bulldogs center Mason McTavish has played for more teams in one season than some players have in their entire careers.

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McTavish is estimated to have had about 150 different teammates this season with the Anaheim Ducks, San Diego Gulls, Peterborough Pits, the Canadian youth team, the Canadian Olympic team, and the Bulldogs.

Drafted third overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, McTavish may not remember all the teammates he played with this season, but it’s likely that they all remember him as a future NHL star.

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“It’s definitely been a lot of hockey, but that’s what I love to do,” McTavish said Thursday before the Bulldogs took on the Cataractes Shawinigan in Game 4 of the Memorial Cup. “I have been very lucky to play in many different tournaments and leagues, especially here in Hamilton, and right now my main goal is to win the Memorial Cup.

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“But it’s definitely weird, it takes a little time to adjust to the league you’re playing in and who you’re playing with. But playing in the NHL and then the AHL and even getting back into the junior roster was pretty fun; It’s always a lot of fun to play hockey. It’s been a fun year; it was definitely different from the usual year.”

McTavish was born in Zurich, where his father Dale played professionally. Two seasons ago, McTavish returned to Switzerland to play for EHC Olten as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out youth hockey. In the spring, he played for the Canadian under-18 team and was selected by Anaheim in last year’s draft.

McTavish began that season with the Ducks, becoming the youngest player in franchise history to score a goal. He was sent to play in the AHL before returning to the junior team to play with the Petes. He then played Canada at the World Junior Championships before COVID-19 closed that tournament, which has since been rescheduled for August.

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Shortly after returning to the OHL, McTavish was acquired by the Bulldogs in a blockbuster deal that saw two players and three draft picks go the other way.

“I knew this team was pretty good and once I got here I was blown away by how good they are,” MacTavish said. “I think I only lost one game here in the regular season. It’s pretty crazy to be part of such a team and I’m really lucky.”

McTavish was the final piece of the Bulldogs championship puzzle. He scored 14 goals and 40 points in 24 regular season games and then added 16 goals and 29 points in 19 playoff games as the Bulldogs won the OHL title 16-3 in the playoffs.

“I didn’t know that many guys on the team, but it’s definitely easier for me to fit in when I’m older,” MacTavish said. “But like any other team, you spend more time listening first and then understanding. They’re all great guys, and even the younger guys interact with the older ones, so it’s not like some of the other youth teams where the older guys just hang out with the older ones and the younger ones hang out together.

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“We have a great team there and it starts with the coaching staff, they do a great job with everyone.”

Before McTavish could really negotiate with the Bulldogs, he got the opportunity to represent Canada in the Olympics after the NHL decided it would not send players to China.

“The Olympics were great, they were different,” McTavish said. “It was cool to be 18 and go to the Olympics and just see other athletes. The most fun was going to other events and seeing all the other athletes. It was definitely something I will never forget.”

Upon his return, McTavish helped lead the Bulldogs to first place in the OHL standings. Hamilton went through the first three rounds of the playoffs before it took him seven games to defeat the Windsor Spitfires in the final.

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Hamilton lost its first Memorial Cup game on Monday, losing 4-3 to hosts the St. John Sea Dogs, who were eliminated in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs and out of a 38-day break.

“Of course, I made a lot of friends this year, and I think I’ve probably become the closest to the guys here just because I’ve been here the longest,” McTavish said. “Hockey is great, you meet so many new people and make lifelong friendships and I’m so lucky to play and meet so many special people.”

The Bulldogs feel lucky to have him and hope he can help them win their first Memorial Cup. This is the second time the Bulldogs have been at the event, having lost in the semi-finals of the 2018 tournament in Regina.

“Mason is a revolutionary, he’s a guy who can go and really fire up and take control of the game from time to time,” said Bulldogs head coach Jay McKee. “He is a great teammate, a very nice person, he loves playing hockey and has a real competitive edge that extends to other players.

“At the same time, he is a guy who can keep things loose in the dressing room. I think it’s good for our club, I think they play better when everyone is losing. And he was a very important player for us.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDist

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