Mason glad to be home

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

As a boy growing up in Oakville, Steve Mason idolized Maple Leafs goalie Felix Potvin, whose nickname was "The Cat."

Years later, that is a fitting description for Mason, whose cool-as-a-cat persona has made him the frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

Mason, 20, has posted an impressive 22-12-3 record (including a win against St. Louis last night), 2.05 goals-against average and seven shutouts. Through it all, he has been unflappable, a trait he first displayed at the 2008 World Junior Championship when he led Canada to a gold medal, winning the tournament MVP and Top Goaltender awards in the process.

Of course, there is one thing that actually might make the Boy Wonder of the Columbus Blue Jackets a little jittery.

Playing at the Air Canada Centre in front of dozens and dozens of friends and family tonight.

"I'm looking forward to a special evening," Mason said yesterday. "Hopefully it's going to be a really good game for me.

"I'll be a little nervous, maybe when the anthem starts. But after a couple minutes, I'll get into game mode and it'll feel like just another game.

"It'll be fun to play in the building that you grew up watching the Leafs play in your whole life."

Even in front of the large entourage that will be on hand to see him?

"My parents are taking care of the tickets ... It's probably going to be over 50 fans," he said.

Having watched his prized rookie sit out with mono recently, coach Ken Hitchcock will not take any chances with Mason.

"If he doesn't feel good, we're not going to put him in," Hitchcock said.

"We're assuming he's not going to tell us the truth about how he feels, either, because we've already had that happen.

We have ways of telling, too. We know his tendencies. If he feels good, we can tell it in the net and see his energy and attitude."

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland feels Mason is poised to be an elite NHL goaltender.

"I think he can be one of the top four, five, six goaltenders in the game," Holland told the Columbus Dispatch. "Add two, three or four years experience, and the sky's the limit."

Holland, a member of the Team Canada hierarchy, confirmed that Mason is a candidate for the 2010 Olympic team.

"He's on our radar screen, obviously," Holland said.


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