Things have not gone the way Mike McCarron or the Canadiens hoped they would since they selected him in the first round (25th overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound centre has only played 69 games in the NHL, posting 2-6-8 totals. McCarron spent all of last season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, posting 7-14-21 totals in 32 games before requiring season-ending surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. McCarron said he first injured the shoulder during a 2014 pre-season game against the Boston Bruins when he crashed into the goalpost.
“The last four years, it just kept popping out every year, like five times,” McCarron said during a phone interview Tuesday from London, Ont., where he is training this summer. “It finally happened last year where I knew something really bad happened. I went and got the MRI and they said I needed the surgery. I have made a 100-per-cent recovery now and everything looks good. Everyone’s happy with the way my shoulder is coming and I’m happy with it.”
How much did the shoulder hamper McCarron’s play since he first injured it?
“I don’t know,” he said. “People have asked me that. I was obviously going to get taped every game and if it popped out it usually hurt for about a week. If you have three games in four nights in the AHL … you’re not really worried about it, but it is in the back of your mind. You’re not following through as hard on all of your faceoffs and things like that. It maybe held me back a little bit, but I don’t think I can blame anything on that.”
The Canadiens knew McCarron would be a project when they drafted him mainly for his size and that he needed a lot of work on his skating. At this point, McCarron doesn’t seem to be in the Canadiens’ plans for next season after signing a two-way contract last weekend that will pay him US$700,000 in the NHL and US$125,000 in the AHL. Last season, the 24-year-old earned only US$70,000 with the Rocket and as a restricted free agent was the last player on the Canadiens roster signed by GM Marc Bergevin this summer.
“They obviously had some things that they were doing and me being restricted they usually come to us last,” McCarron said. “So that happened. We didn’t go back and forth as much as last summer, but I wasn’t too surprised at how long it took. I thought it was handled pretty well.”
The 2013 NHL Draft wasn’t a good one for the Canadiens. Of the eight players they selected — McCarron, Jacob de la Rose (second round), Zach Fucale (second), Artturi Lehkonen (second) Connor Crisp (third), Sven Andrighetto (third), Martin Reway (fourth) and Jérémy Grégoire (sixth) — Lehkonen was the only one with the Canadiens last season.
Defenceman Shea Theodore, who was taken one pick after McCarron by the Anaheim Ducks (26th overall), had 12-25-37 totals with the Vegas Golden Knights last season and has 23-60-83 totals in 193 NHL games. Right-winger Ryan Hartman, selected 30th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, had 12-14-26 totals last season with the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers and has 42-47-89 totals in 245 NHL games.
When asked if being a first-round pick after being ranked 35th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting put added pressure on him, McCarron said: “A little bit. A first-rounder, (fans) expect you to score 25 goals a year and it’s not me. I know the Habs definitely weren’t asking me to do that, but you still feel that little bit of pressure. The fans think you should be producing a lot more and not just be a tough guy and fight. So that was a little tough for me.”
McCarron has shown he’s not afraid to drop the gloves with 10 fights and 110 penalty minutes in 69 games with the Canadiens. He continues to work hard on his skating and has been training since April after recovering from his surgery, saying he’d be ready to start training camp tomorrow and his goal is to make the Canadiens next season. McCarron admitted it was tough for him being in and out of the lineup during his time with the Canadiens and being sent up and down between the NHL and the AHL, but added he has matured with age and is better prepared now to handle whatever happens.
When asked what part of his game has improved the most since being drafted, McCarron chuckled and said: “My skating, man. I couldn’t skate. I’m a good skater now. I feel good. I have a good skating coach here in London. I feel strong on my feet and I think that’s where I saw the biggest improvement last year. I could come out of corners with the puck, where before maybe I was slipping or something like that.
“My skating has definitely improved and I’m ready to go,” he added. “Everything else is in the past.”
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