Montreal Canadiens On the Bubble: Michael McCarron

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On the bubble is a series examining the players in Montreal Canadiens training camp who are fighting for a roster spot. With limited space on the Habs main roster, there is not enough room for all of them. This series looks to figure out who has the best chance of making the team.

Next up: Michael McCarron

On the Bubble: Michael McCarron

Michael McCarron is a big strong forward. At first glance, McCarron looks like just another big body to plant in front of the net. What made him a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft was his overlooked skill set. He showed a combination of size and skill with the US NTDP that every team is looking for.

As a professional, McCarron has yet to realize his potential. While he has played 51 games for the Canadiens over the past two seasons, he is deployed in a fourth line role. Even in the AHL, McCarron has not quite produced at the level that is expected of a first-round pick.

McCarron may have an inside track to making the Habs roster based on his size. He played 31 games with the Habs last year, including a playoff game. Still, he needs to have a strong training camp to solidify his position.

Strengths

The biggest strength Michael McCarron has is his physical size. He is big, 6’6″ tall and 230 pounds. McCarron uses his body and long reach to protect the puck to help drive the offense. He goes to the net, where his size creates havoc for the goalie and defense. His size makes it difficult for defenders along the wall and in corners during puck battles, which keeps the pressure on in the offensive zone. McCarron knows when to go to the dangerous areas on the ice. When he gets in front of the net, his size makes it impossible for the goalie to see anything. While his size might be enough, McCarron also possesses good instincts on the ice.

McCarron’s skills are often overshadowed by his size. He is not a typical big body that can only screen the goalie. While his big size will draw the attention of defenders he has the ability to find his teammates in space. His playmaking ability is what makes McCarron such an intriguing prospect. His flashes of offensive skill are why some people are so high on him.

Weakness

McCarron’s biggest flaw is his skating ability. Once he gets to his top speed he is fast but his slow foot speed means it takes him a bit longer to reach his top speed. Coupling with his skating issue, he doesn’t have great hand skills.

McCarron shows flashes of brilliance in his game, but they don’t happen as frequently as expected from a former first-round pick. When his game is struggling, McCarron tends to fight to make his presence known on the ice. While using his size and physicality can be helpful, McCarron is more useful to his team on the ice.

McCarron did not take the next step many were expecting last year. He struggled early, not scoring his first goal until November. McCarron scored seven goals and 19 points in 32 games with the IceCaps last year. He did finish third on the IceCaps primary points five-on-five. Unfortunately, this type of production doesn’t project to more than a third-line player in the NHL.

Lastly, McCarron has had issues with conditioning. He can wear down late in shifts, or later in the season. McCarron has indicated that he worked on his fitness over the summer and thinks that this will be less of an issue this season

Conclusion

This is an important year for McCarron. He needs to show a significant improvement in his offensive game to show he still has high-end potential. It’s important to note that while McCarron has not produced at the NHL, he was deployed in a fourth -line role. His linemates were some combination of Torrey Mitchell, Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen, Brian Flynn, and Dwight King. It’s not realistic to expect a young player to produce offensively in this situation.

He might find himself in a difficult spot to make the team coming out of training camp, especially if the Canadiens are looking for McCarron to bring some offense. Not to say it’s beyond him, but the Habs might have more established options in camp. McCarron may have an inside track to make the roster based on his size and physicality if the Habs and Head Coach Claude Julien are looking to add size. With a strong training camp, McCarron should find himself with the Canadiens at the end of the pre-season, probably in a rotation on the fourth line. McCarron might not be ready for a full-time role in the NHL yet, which means he will find himself in the AHL at some point this year. More seasoning in the AHL is not the worst thing for McCarron, but he will need to show significant improvement in his offensive game. A strong showing by McCarron in Laval means the Canadiens will come calling sooner rather than later.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I have to disagree on McCarron’s potential… he’s a low scoring third liner/decent fourth liner even at his best. I don’t see the higher ceiling and skills you are alluding to. He’s basically had 1 season with good offensive numbers since he was 16 years old… and that was as a 19 year old man child in his final OHL campaign. Oh yeah and he scored a lot playing on a line with Max Domi or Mitch Marner in London and his numbers dropped when he was traded to Oshawa that year.

    Offensive productivity will never be McCarron’s game, unfortunately.

  2. I see your point BK but there have been a # of guys who had so so stats in the OHL, then took a few years to ‘ develop’ as a pro. Big Mac reminds me of Peter Mahovlich, for example, who played a key role in some of our cup wins during the 70s. Ok, I get that the game has changed, but MM is a better player for his age than Peter was. And it took PM years have his breakout season but once he did he was a top producer. To me it comes down to a leap of faith believing that he will overcome his weakness and develop into a solid 2nd liner plus. This is his key year yet unlike the ‘ old days’ no organization holds on in developing a player say past 3-4 years. My only outlying thought is that if he does ends up a league star like Ryan McDonagh he is playing for the Habs. All the best #34.

    • In his post draft season at 18, he played in the OHL and scored 34 points in 66 games. There is no one in the last 20 years in the NHL who had those kind of numbers (~0.5 PPG) playing in the CHL in their post draft 18-year-old season and went on to score 50 points in a season in the NHL. No one.

      Add to that he hasn’t shown real offence in 2 years in the AHL or in 50 NHL games, and i think the chances of him being a top 6 forward are almost nil.

      • While I tend to agree, I don’t think his NHL sample is a fair point. He played 4th line minutes with scrubs. It’s difficult to expect him to produce and carry a line.
        I’m not saying he will be a top line player, but he has shown flashes of ability.
        Much like Hudon, it would be nice to see him play with more talented players at the NHL level to see what he might be able to do.

        • The difference is that Hudon dominated in junior, and has been one of the team’s best scorers at the AHL level as well.

          I get your point re 4th liners in his NHL games, however at the AHL level, he’s been given top line assignments and some of the top wingers on the team over his time there. He’s just not close to Hudon in scoring despite that.

  3. Couldn’t use some pre season stats to show current info?
    Just the usual blah blah.
    He actually got some of the onmy good reviews from last outing for strong penalty killing and well timed, hard hits.
    He is smart positionally, supports the d, and does make his linemates better by drawing in defenders.

  4. And using your logic then just what happened to all those guys with great #’s in the CHL, OHL…that never made it. #’s at his level are only an indication of potential. Saying ‘nil’ is a safe, conservative position one I reject as some players take a little more time to develop and adjust. The question becomes just how much. And his #’s are somewhat better than you state esp. his OHL playoff stats. Plus there are plenty of guys in a top 6 position under 50 points in the NHL. Cheers and go Habs

    • The logic here is simple.

      Yes many fail. Its true that having great numbers in junior is not a guarantee of success. It doesn’t mean you can translate your game and take the next step. Each step up… CHL, AHL, NHL is harder.

      But if you can’t score at the lower level, why do you think he’ll be able to score in the hardest league the NHL?

      Being able to score in junior doesn’t guarantee a top 6 job at the next level… however not being able to score is a pretty good indication that you won’t be a scorer moving forward. Its a potential disqualifier, not a guarantee of success if you get past that hurdle.

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