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McDonald carrying the load for Islanders

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

Our plan this season was to be able to ride Mason. We felt that Mason was ready for a heavier workload and I think he's done extremely well with it.Islanders coach Gordie Dwyer

CALGARY, AB -- The best term to describe Charlottetown Islanders netminder Mason McDonald is workhorse.

McDonald is one of the busiest goaltenders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, having played in 54 games (fourth in the league), logged 3076:15 minutes (third in the league), and faced 1657 shots (third in the league).

Not only is he playing the bulk of games for the Islanders, he is also facing a high number of shots on a nightly basis.

McDonald, who was drafted by the Flames in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft, has faced 35+ shots in 14 games and 40+ shots in five appearances this season.

What makes this even more impressive is how the 18-year-old has handled the workload. His .905 save percentage is the third best in the QMJHL and he is one of the top five winningest goaltenders in the league with a 27-21-4 record.

He doesn't buckle under pressure and his composure will be essential if the Islanders, who have clinched a playoff spot and sit third in the Maritimes Division, want to make a long run in the postseason.

"Our plan this season was to be able to ride Mason," head coach Gordie Dwyer told CalgaryFlames.com. "We felt that Mason was ready for a heavier workload and I think he's done extremely well with it.

"He gives us a chance to win every night."

McDonald feels he has made great strides in his development this season, as he has been able to hone certain aspects of his game thanks to being in the bulk of the Islanders' tilts.

"I'm getting lots of playing time and I'm progressing as the season goes on," he stated. "I'm learning a lot things, with the experience of playing a lot. I feel great in the net this year.

"I'm trying to play in my crease more, not get out wandering. My rebound control has gotten a lot better and I think I'm managing the games a lot better than I did in the past."

McDonald's junior career began with the Acadie-Bathurst, who drafted him in the second round of the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft. He spent the 2012-13 season with the Titans, appearing in 26 games in his rookie year.

He dressed for 13 games the following year, posting a 3.57 GAA and a .887 save percentage, before Acadie-Bathurst dealt him to Charlottetown in the middle of the season.

The netminder's play with the Islanders in the second half of the campaign was so strong that he jumped five spots -- from seventh to second -- in the NHL Central Scouting's midterm North American goaltender rankings to their final set of rankings at the conclusion of the year.

His play with the Islanders in the 2013-14 regular season and playoffs also helped solidify that he had the capability to be a number one goaltender with the organization, allowing them to trade netminder Eric Brassard last May and handing over the reins to McDonald.

"You could always see the talent in Mason," Dwyer said. "He was identified early, even in the major junior draft. We've always thought highly of him and felt fortunate to be able to acquire him last season.

"I think the biggest thing in Mason's development is that he is obviously maturing physically. He was a tall kid but this summer he really took the next step in developing himself physically for the next level, developing himself physically to be a number one goaltender and sustain a heavy workload."

In addition to filling out physically, Dwyer identified McDonald's assiduous preparation as a key part of his success.

While the netminder has always been a diligent student of the game, he credits his time spent with the Flames during development and training camps for giving him a better understanding of what it will take to get to the next level.

"The pace of play is big -- now I know what the speed at the next level is like. It helps you see what it will take to get there and how much hard work it is. I just have to keep working every day. That's what those guys are doing and that's what they did to get to the NHL."

The three-hour time difference between Calgary and Charlottetown makes it difficult for McDonald to catch most Flames games but he makes a strong effort to stay up-to-date on how his organization is doing in the NHL's Western Conference playoff race.

"They're doing great this year," he said. "I've been able to catch a few of their games, especially on the east coast trips. I think it's great that the young guys on the team have stepped up and are performing the way they have. It's great to see them all do so well."

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