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Gavin McCarthy: 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; Case’s More Offensive Brother

Gavin McCarthy is the younger brother of New Jersey Devils prospect and Boston University Terrier leader Case McCarthy. Gavin has put up more offense than Case on a bad Muskegon team and in spite of a knee injury in 2022-23. Learn more about him in with this prospect profile.

NHL Top Prospects Portrait Shoot
Case’s brother is going to get drafted
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

One of the frequent storylines you will see in sports are families. For the People Who Matter like myself and older, we can look at a player and lament how we remember when his dad or uncle was drafted and/or played. For the media, it is an easy storyline to delve into. For the organization, it may be an intriguing notion to know there is talent in the family. The subject of today’s profile is related to someone you may know. The New Jersey Devils drafted his older brother, Case McCarthy, in 2019 in the fourth round. This profile is about his younger brother, Muskegon Lumberjack defenseman and future Boston University Terrier, Gavin McCarthy.

Who is Gavin McCarthy?

This member of the McCarthy family (Case is at BU, brother Aiden is playing Canadian college hockey) is about the same size as his brother. Per Elite Prospects, he is 6’1”, 181 pounds, and has a right-handed shot. He also just turned 18 earlier this month as he was born on June 2. He may be a bit bigger as he was measured at 6’1.5” and 186 pounds at the NHL Combine earlier this month. Like his older brothers, he plays defense and he initially came up through the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. And like Case, Gavin is set to join Boston University for the 2023-24 season.

In 2021-22, McCarthy moved to the United States Hockey League to play with Muskegon. He even got a taste of international play with four games with the American U-17 squad, although he was not a member of the USNTDP. After 53 games and 13 points with the Lumberjacks along with nine playoff games, a step up was expected in 2022-23. Which he did have to a point. He would play in a larger role and produce more for the Lumberjacks with eight goals and 27 points in 2022-23. Gavin also represented the United States at the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament (an under-18 international tournament in the Summer that is unofficial start of the draft season) and was going to represent at the World Junior A Challenge, which is an under-19 international tournament. Gavin got into one game and then suffered a brutal injury in practice. Per this article at the Buffalo News by Lance Lysowski, Gavin suffered a broken patella. It led to him missing most of the tourney and held out of action until February. Hence, he only played in 42 games for Muskegon.

It was still an improvement over his 2021-22 rookie season in the USHL. After all, even representing the country for a few games while not being a USNTDP member is a positive sign. As is going from two goals to eight goals, 13 to 27 points, one power play point (an assist) to eleven power play points (four goals, seven assists) season over season. A more impressive improvement when you notice that Muskegon was pretty bad last season. Only four teams in the USHL do not make the playoffs and the Lumberjacks missed out by 11 points. Not so impressive is that Muskegon was the most penalized team in the USHL last season and Gavin McCarthy contributed to that. He “improved” from 37 PIM to 88 PIM in 2022-23, which put him fifth on the team in penalties. McCarthy averaged 2.1 penalty minutes per game (third most on the team), which is not what you want to see from anyone much less a defenseman playing more often on a team that needed all the help it could get.

Still, there is a lot more positive than negative with McCarthy. While he suffered a knee injury, he did recover to continue to play for Muskegon. The college route will do him well in terms of honing his game and, hopefully, his discipline. That he had a handful games with American national teams during his time in the ‘U,’ is a sign that he is a bit better than most of his compatriots. His size is similar to Case’s and the points alone point to Gavin having more of an offensive game than his older brother. Add in the fact that he was at the NHL Combine and this is a guy on the radar of many teams.

Where is Gavin McCarthy Ranked?

Of course, being on the radar just means that someone is looking at you. I am confident that Gavin McCarthy will be drafted. Where seems to be a bit of a range depending on those who follow and rank prospects.

Surprising to me that FC Hockey, Craig Button, and Dobber Prospects did not rank Gavin McCarthy at all. Those who did have him all over the place. A 52nd ranking among North American skaters would put McCarthy early in the third round. Others would agree such as Elite Prospect’s own ranking, Draft Prospects’ ranking, Peter Baracchini at The Hockey Writers, and Gabriel Foley’s ranking. A few think McCarthy could be a second round pick, such as Steven Ellis at Daily Faceoff, Logan Horn at The Hockey Writers, Chris Peters at Flohockey. The variety speaks to a prospect that there are some questions about. Let us see what others say about him that could lead to knowing what those questions could be.

What Others Say About Gavin McCarthy

There is not a ton of public information out there about McCarthy that is particularly critical. The Lance Lysowski article from the Buffalo News linked earlier is more or less a biographical look at the player. Good to get familiar with the player. Not so much in terms of determining how much of a prospect he is.

This May 31, 2023 post by Ryan Sikes at Flohockey is a bit more objective, although it is definitely more on the positive side of things. First, there is this quote from his head coach at Muskegon, Parker Burgess - who is quoted throughout the piece:

“Gavin is a big D man with a really efficient, long stride. He can play both sides of the puck, and his composure and ability to make plays is definitely one of his strengths,”

This appeared to be the case in the USHL with Muskergon. Which speaks to how positive it is as it highlights his apparent offensive game and play in his own end. The latter was something he worked on for this past season, which is a positive in of itself. Here is a snippet from that part of the post:

Bigger in stature than most of his competition, the Muskegon defenseman uses his size to his advantage. McCarthy positions himself to block shots and throws his weight around to knock the opposition off the puck.

The 17-year-old improved his positional awareness, defending rushes and boxing out to gain the advantage in front of the goal crease.

Rounding out his defensive game allowed McCarthy to remain on the ice in tight situations, at the end of the period, or at the end of the game. The young defenseman wanted to prove to the coaching staff and NHL scouts that he could do whatever was asked of him.

Sikes points out that had McCarthy played the full season, he could have been projected to go higher. I am not so certain of that. While he missed a significant amount of time, he still played in 42 games out of 62. He also played played after the injury starting from February 17 through to April 22. The USHL is scouted so I am confident NHL personnel did get a chance to see how he was recovering. Still, I get the larger point. No knee injury is better than having one to recover from in the first point.

It is a complementary piece. And it can be seen in line with Chris Peters’ ranking at FloHockey, which was one of the higher ones out there at #48. Peters wrote this blurb about the defenseman:

A right-shot defenseman with good mobility, McCarthy defends well and moves pucks with ease. He didn’t have a highly-productive year as Muskegon struggled and he also dealt with a knee injury that kept him off the ice for a few months. That said, McCarthy showed notable progression from the beginning of the year to the end, suggesting some upside. As McCarthy gets stronger, he’ll only be better defensively and the puck-moving tools are good enough to suggest he can produce at a higher level as he moves forward. There’s still plenty of development time ahead for him.

I think this is a more objective take on the player and I can agree. How he does at BU is going to determine what kind of defenseman he can become and how far he may go.

One of the other rankings that were higher on McCarthy than most was Logan Horn at The Hockey Writers. While his ranking list did not have an explanation for his ranking, Horn wrote up this profile about McCarthy on May 26. It provides more detail as to how Horn saw the player. These two paragraphs are a good summary as to both sides of the game that McCarthy plays:

With the Lumberjacks lacking a true top offensive defenseman, McCarthy was thrust into that role. His best offensive trait is his skating which allows him to transport the puck up ice well, and he has enough skill to make plays at the offensive blue line every once in a while. McCarthy won’t be an NHL powerplay quarterback, lacking the high-end hockey IQ and calmness under pressure necessary for that role, but he is still a positive player in the offensive zone, hitting smart, simple passes and making the occasional skill move around a forechecker one-on-one.

McCarthy was good defensively this year, with his skating again being his best trait on defense. He doesn’t read opposing offenses all that well, but he plays very physically and his skating allows him to take risks with positioning while still being able to get back into the play. McCarthy shuts plays down well with his stick and should be an average defensive player in the NHL.

Horn makes it clear that Gavin McCarthy’s role as an offensive defenseman was more of a function of being on a bad team than McCarthy’s own skills. That Horn states his skating is an asset is a plus as that will help McCarthy in whatever role he does play in the future. But that will take plenty of effort. As per Horn’s own observations, there is plenty of room for improvement. Being able to read opposing players, knowing when to be physical and when not to be, understanding where to be so he does not have to recover are important factors for a defenseman of any kind to be successful. I came away from Horn’s profile thinking it was a more honest take about the player. Someone with a possible future in pro hockey, but likely not what he showed as in his draft year.

As a final point, here is the blurb by Gabriel Foley for his ranking of McCarthy at Recruit Scouting, which was 83rd:

McCarthy’s style lends itself heavily to calm, defensive play. He’s phenomenal at defending the rush and is growing increasingly comfortable at playing physical in his own end. And while it didn’t come to fruition this year, it feels like McCarthy’s smooth skating and confidence with the puck could eventually lead to solid scoring.

I am not so sure about the scoring in the future per Horn’s points. But calm, defensive play is a pathway for a future in pro hockey. Should Foley’s ranking be more indicative of where McCarthy is picked, then that pathway is a viable one if unexciting.

A Little Video

Believe it or not, I really cannot find any clips of Gavin McCarthy, the Muskegon Lumberjack. There is a lacrosse player with the same name and a goalie that plays for Oakville of the OJHL. The closest I could find were USNTDP highlight reels against Muskegon, and this is the best I can do - where #14 shoveled the puck forwards the slot and the Lumberjacks pile in a goal for the secondary assist. Then the USNTDP U-18s proceeded to wreck the Lumberjacks in what would be a 1-10 loss. Let us continue on.

An Opinion of Sorts

Should the Devils keep their third round pick or fourth round pick (or even later), then this could be a decent prospect to take a chance on. It is a real question whether Case McCarthy can amount to much beyond college. And Case was productive with the USNTDP, somewhat similar to Gavin in terms of raw numbers. Yet, Case was on a way stronger team than the Muskegon squad Gavin played on. He was drafted from that monster 2019 U-18 team that featured The Big Deal, Caufield, Zegras, Boldy, York, and Turcotte. The 2022-23 Lumberjacks had nothing resembling that class of offensive talent. I stand by the headline that Case is a more offensive version of his brother. But I agree with Horn that I can understand that is unlikely to translate to the next level. BU is going to be more talented than his USHL team. Unless Gavin blossoms, it is unlikely he will get the shifts and matchups to attack like he did as a Lumberjack. I would not be shocked if he ends up more grounded as a defender like Case has become in collect.

That said, anyone who takes Gavin McCarthy likely has someone that they can let grow in college for three, maybe all four, years and see what comes out. Maybe he does blossom and his offense from the USHL does appear more often at the college level. Which would bode well for a future career. Maybe Horn is right and Gavin becomes a defender like Ben Chiarot. Not exactly an exciting result, but still a NHL player. Which is absolutely a success for any mid to late round draft pick. The Devils have been more than fine with taking a chance on a prospect from a league like the USHL and let them cook in college. They did this with his brother, Patrick Moynihan, Artem Shlaine, and Ethan Edwards among others. If they like what they see from Case’s younger brother and it is the third round or later, then I would not hate it. If they pass on him, then that is fine too.

Your Take

There is a connection with a current Devils prospect and some accolades to go with playing on a bad Muskegon team. Yet, there are enough questions about Gavin McCarthy’s ceiling and what he could achieve to lock him in as a second-day draft pick. I think he will be drafted, but when? I want to know what you think about him. What did you like reading about Gavin McCarthy? What did you not like reading about him? Regardless of what I think, would you want the Devils to take a chance on him at some point on the second day of the 2023 NHL Draft? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Gavin McCarthy in the comments. Thank you for reading.