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Flames' McDonald begins goalie run in 2nd round

by Mike G. Morreale

PHILADELPHIA -- Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving was more than willing to begin the run on goaltenders early in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

The newly appointed GM and his scouting staff proved it with the selection of goalie Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at No. 34.

McDonald (6-foot-4, 178 pounds) was the first goalie taken at the draft and the first of five selected in the second round. There were 21 goalies selected during the final six rounds of the draft. No goalies were selected in the first round Friday night.

"I talked to [Calgary] at the combine and I talked to a guy in Calgary last week," McDonald said. "They were one of the teams that showed a little more interest than others. It was between them and two others that I kind of had in the back of my mind and I’m glad to be selected by them."

McDonald, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's list of the top North American goalies, was chosen two spots ahead of No. 1-ranked North American Thatcher Demko of Boston College in Hockey East. The Vancouver Canucks took Demko at No. 36.

"I was a little surprised to be taken first," McDonald said. "I knew I had a chance at it and when it happened I was relieved and really happy."

Treliving acknowledged that he and his scouting staff spent the past few weeks putting together their goalie list and wanted to make sure they had a chance at their No. 1 choice.

"Ultimately our scouts had Mason at the top," he said. "It's one we spent a lot of time on and both are really good goaltenders. We had a chance to see Mason a couple of weeks ago at the Hockey Canada's camp and spent some time with him. Our guys liked this guy, he was there and we made the pick."

The one tournament that may have put McDonald over the top was his performance for Canada at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship. McDonald finished with a 1.90 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in six games and was named the tournament's top goaltender.

"He's a big kid, athletic and reminds me a lot of [Philadelphia Flyers] goalie Steve Mason," said Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's goalie scout. "He had a good second half and became the No. 1 goalie in Charlottetown and deservedly so. He was actually getting close to Demko and I felt at the final ranking he wasn't too far behind Demko."

After playing 26 games as a 16-year-old for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2012-13, McDonald split the 2013-14 season with the Titan and Islanders after a midseason trade sent him to Charlottetown. He finished the season with a eight wins, posting a 3.44 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

The run on goalies was fast and furious once McDonald was chosen.

"I'm not surprised all the goalies were falling at that point," Treliving said. "There was a separation between the top goaltenders and we knew that as soon as one name was called, they were going to fall. We had to make sure we weren't caught on the wrong side of the spacing and we knew that if we didn't take him there we wouldn't have a chance at him."

Demko acknowledged that the waiting was definitely the hardest part.

"It was really nerve-racking," Demko said. "You're just hoping someone calls you but you don't know what to expect. You can't get upset about it, but I'm very happy that Vancouver called my name. The feeling when I finally heard my name was indescribable; I can't really put it into words."

Demko, who will return to Boston College for his sophomore season, said he doesn't view playing for the Canucks as a pressure situation. Demko is a native of San Diego.

"There's no pressure; once I get there you'll probably feel it a little bit more with the Canucks fans and how passionate they are," Demko said. "It's a great hockey environment and different than California, so it's crazy. Hopefully I can appeal to the fans up there so they can love me instead of hate me."

Demko (6-3, 190) completed his freshman season at Boston College in 2013-14 with a 16-5-3 record, 2.24 GAA and .919 save percentage. He earned All Hockey East Rookie Team honors and Hockey East honorable mention and helped the Eagles celebrate a Beanpot Tournament championship.

After McDonald and Demko were picked, the next three goalies weren't too far behind. The Carolina Hurricanes selected fourth-rated Alex Nedeljkovic (No. 37) of the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League; the Washington Capitals selected Vitek Vanecek (No. 39) of Liberec Jr. in the Czech Republic. He was ranked eighth among European goalies. The New York Rangers selected sixth-ranked North American Brandon Halverson (No. 59) of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL.

"I knew that once one team took a goalie, it would kind of go like that," McDonald said.

Nedeljkovic, of Parma, Ohio, was named the goaltender of the year in the OHL, playing 61 of 68 games and ranking second in the League with a .925 save percentage. He made 2,042 saves and faced the second-most shots in the OHL (2,207). Nedeljkovic (6-0, 190) was the first goalie in Whalers history to claim OHL goalie of the year honors and the third American-born goalie to win the award following Michael Houser (Pennsylvania) of the London Knights in 2012 and current Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (Illinois), who played for the Guelph Storm in 2001.

"I consider myself a Ryan Miller-type of athletic goalie, technically sound and capable of doing all the little things right," Nedeljkovic said. "You rarely see [Miller] out of position. I'm not looking too far ahead. I'm just going to continue to work out and get in shape, get ready for next season and whatever challenges come with that."


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