2022-23 Team: Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Date of Birth: June 2, 2005
Place of Birth: Clarence Center, New York, USA
Height: 6-foot-1, Weight: 181 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: First Year Eligible
Gavin McCarthy is a big-minutes defender who played a big role for an underperforming Muskegon team that missed the USHL playoffs entirely. He was the best offensive defender on the team all season and acquitted himself well defensively considering he played the entire year at age 17.
McCarthy was one of five Lumberjacks players to be in the Top-30 of USHL penalty minutes, despite missing roughly 20 regular season games. 88 penalty minutes in 42 games is almost impressive, and his mean streak will be encouraging to some NHL teams and make him a non-starter for others. His physical style and willingness to play a mean game is certainly one of his standout traits.
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.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
With 27 points in 42 games, McCarthy had the fourth-most points among U18 defenders in the USHL, as well as the fourth-best per-game rate behind the likes of Andrew Strathmann (likely top-45 pick in this year’s draft) and Artyom Levshunov (1st overall candidate in 2024). In five games for Team USA split between the World Junior-A Challenge and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, McCarthy only managed one point, though he did manage to rack up 12 penalty minutes.
Scoring points at a high rate will almost certainly never be the hallmark of his game, but McCarthy’s production accurately represents his contributions on a team that lacked a true puck-mover on the backend this year. However, he likely won’t get tons of time on the top power play unit of any team he lands on in the NHL so those points will likely drop off a little bit.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Gavin McCarthy – NHL Draft Projection
As a solid two-way defender with a right-handed shot, McCarthy naturally has value in the draft despite the questions around his hockey IQ and the translatability of his offensive game to the NHL. I expect he’ll go in the early third round (around 70), though he could go higher if many right-handed D are selected early and a team likes his physical game.
“McCarthy’s toolkit is one that should do well in the pro game” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (2023 NHL Draft prospects: Bedard No. 1 on Corey Pronman’s ranking, Fantilli and Michkov next, March 7, 2023)
“Defensively he’s solid. He can run around a little bit, but he’s quite physical, and his skating lets him close on plays well.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (2023 NHL Draft prospects: Bedard No. 1 on Corey Pronman’s ranking, Fantilli and Michkov next, March 7, 2023)
- Excellent Physicality
- Strong Skater
- Solid (if simple) Playmaking
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Read Plays Quicker (Pace)
- Track Opposing Attackers Better
McCarthy has tons of NHL potential, the issue is that his potential ceiling isn’t all that high. I think there’s a really good chance he plays NHL games, likely more than a few, but I can’t see him being more than a second-pairing defender, and that’s a pretty rosy projection in itself. The way he bangs around in the defensive zone searching for hit reminds me a lot of Ben Chiarot, who has been a decent (and polarizing) two-way defender in the NHL for quite some time.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 2.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 4/10, Defense – 6/10
Awards & Achievements
- 2022-23: WJAC-19 Champion