Gavin McCarthy (left) and Quentin Musty go through fitness testing June 10 at the NHL Scouting Combine. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu

Buffalo-area prospects Gavin McCarthy, Quentin Musty grew up with Jr. Sabres, ready for NHL Draft

NASHVILLE – The last time Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams saw NHL Draft prospect Gavin McCarthy, he ran into him, of all places, on the bike path behind his house in Clarence.

Adams, having run the Jr. Sabres and Academy of Hockey at LECOM Harborcenter before being named GM, knows a lot of high-end local prospects like McCarthy and Hamburg native Quentin Musty, who could be a first-round pick Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena.

His connection to McCarthy, 18, is the most unique.

Yes, McCarthy, a defenseman Central Scouting ranked 52nd among North American skaters for the NHL Draft, played for the Jr. Sabres. But he also lives in Adams’ neighborhood.

Adams and his staff recently interviewed the youngster at the NHL Scouting Combine.

“You learn a lot in this job, but this is the first of a neighborhood kid sitting in the interview,” Adams said Wednesday in KeyBank Center. “I mean, he went to kindergarten with my daughter. My daughter’s graduating in a couple days. So it’s pretty cool. I’m proud of him. We did laugh about it, though.”

McCarthy said “it was kind of a comfortable feeling” meeting with the Sabres.

“At the same, it’s still an NHL interview and you kind of have to take it that serious,” he said June 10 following fitness testing at the combine in Harborcenter.

McCarthy, who spent the last two seasons with the United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, might be a mid- or late-round pick Thursday.

By then, Musty, a slick winger for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, could be long gone. Central Scouting ranks Musty 14th among North American skaters.

The Sabres have the 13th overall pick, so Musty could be available. If they’re lucky, he might be around when they pick 39th or 45th.

McCarthy and Musty are part of a wave of teenage prospects who essentially grew up with the Jr. Sabres.

“Musty’s someone that I’ve watched since I was young,” Adams said. “And so these players in town, it’s pretty neat to see them now in this position to be draft-eligible.”

The 6-foot-2, 186-pound McCarthy will attend Boston University in the fall. His, brother Case, a fourth-round pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2019, will be a fifth-year senior for the Terriers.

Gavin said playing with his older brother will “be amazing.” When he accompanied Case on visits to Boston years ago, he fell in love with the campus.

“Just been my dream school ever since,” he said.

McCarthy endured a frustrating yet productive season in 2022-23. He injured his knee in the World Junior A Challenge. As a result, his Central Scouting rating slid down from 39 at mid-season.

“It took a while to get my strength back in that leg, for sure,” he said. “There was quite a bit of atrophy. But, yeah, I think kind of just focus and go into the gym with a mindset of every day that I need to kind of get back to where I was.”

Still, McCarthy enjoyed a productive campaign, evolving into more of a two-way defenseman. He compiled eight goals, 27 points, 88 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating in 42 games for Muskegon.

“One of my biggest focuses was just get bigger, fill out my frame,” he said. “I think that’s still one of my biggest focuses.”

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Musty set career highs across the board in his second OHL season, compiling 23 goals, 78 points, 71 penalty minutes and a plus-16 rating in 53 contests.

“Just kind of cleaned up my game a bit,” Musty said June 10 of what helped him improve his production. “I mean, rounded it out, being more defensive, doing the little things right. I think once I did those it created more chances for me and had the puck a lot more.”

Musty, who turns 18 on July 6, also credits former Sudbury coach Derek MacKenzie, who took over last season before recently being named an assistant with the Nashville Predators.

“Derek brought in a lot of experience,” he said. “He played in the NHL for a really long time and coached for a long time as well. … He knows what it takes. I think once he started helping me with that stuff my game got a lot better.”

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