Michael McCarron was one of many youngsters who got a look with the Habs late in the year. He held his own and there’s no denying that he brings some needed elements to the table. Was that enough to make our writers want him to start in the NHL in 2016-17?
Gordon Black: I have mixed feelings on where McCarron should start next year. I’d like to see him with the Habs as he looked like a nice addition last season; but, my biggest concern is that he gets quality minutes at this stage in his development. Knowing Michel Therrien’s propensity to sit rookies in close games and penalize mistakes with long periods of benching I think McCarron’s development may be better served by starting in St. John’s centering the first line.
He no doubt has the skills to be in the NHL (not to mention the size – which Montreal could surely benefit from), but he could use some more work on his skating and a little more confidence when it comes to holding on to the puck in the offensive zone. His shot is quite good, very heavy and decent release, but he tends to fire indiscriminately and often wastes quality offensive opportunities.
Unless Marc Bergevin can unload a center or two (any of Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, or David Desharnais that can return some value), McCarron will be relegated to third or fourth line spot duty. That may be where he is destined to play in the NHL regardless – but there won’t be a chance to see if he has top-6 potential unless he gets a long look on a top line. That simply won’t happen with Therrien’s feet being put to the flames at the start of the season.
Ideally, McCarron will start on the top line in St. John’s, torch the AHL despite Sylvain Lefebvre’s ‘system’ and get called up towards the second half of the year. If the net presence and physicality he has shown in the minors can translate he will make a very nice addition for the playoffs, during what will hopefully be a very long run where that kind of depth can make a huge difference.
Brian La Rose: If the Habs have hopes for McCarron to play more than a fourth line role down the road, they’ll need him to play in a bigger role in the minors; players don’t often develop into NHL top-sixers from the fourth line. I’d also like to see a lot more consistency from him with St. John’s before I’m ready to suggest he has a top six NHL ceiling. His end-of-season point total was pretty good for a rookie but more than half his total points came by the end of November. I’d send him back for at least the first half of next season to see if he can produce at a consistent level. If he does, then he could be a valuable call-up down the stretch. For me, that’s a better route to go than have him playing eight minutes a night on the fourth line. There’s already more than enough options for those spots.
Alex Létourneau: I liked what I saw from McCarron’s year-end stint with the big club. Watching him and Jacob de la Rose at times made for a warm feeling for the near-future. At this point, he needs to be around the team on a day-to-day basis and see if he’s cut out for the NHL. Go through it all like the pros do and see what comes of it. Will he be a first or second line player next season? I highly doubt it and I sincerely hope he’s given time to grow into a position rather than be thrust into it and face unnecessary pressure off the bat. If everyone collectively understands he’s a continuing work in progress, the better it will be for his development. So, yes I hope to see him start the year in the NHL but not in a position where he needs to be leaned on for contribution like a four or five year vet and looked at as a saviour.
Paul MacLeod: Whither McCaron? Barring an astounding performance in training camp–and perhaps even with such a performance– he, and the team, will be best served by him going to the AHL for another season. If there is any hope of McCarron emerging as an offensive force, he needs to play top-six minutes and that is not where he fits in Montreal at this point. Let’s hope Les Canadiens resist the temptation to rush their young behemoth to the NHL. More seasoning is in everyone’s long term best interests.
Craig Scharien: Having done a quick scan of the Habs forward depth McCarron may have a more challenging time cracking the roster than I may have thought. He brings some great things to the table – size, grit and some scoring touch – that the Canadiens sorely need but there simply aren’t too many spots available.
If they keep everyone on the current roster and bring in a UFA to help with scoring (which I certainly hope they do) in the top-six that leaves three starting spots and a healthy scratch open for competition. Daniel Carr, Phillip Danault, and Sven Andrighetto certainly make a lot of sense filling in some of these holes bringing tenacity (Carr), defensive awareness and faceoff ability (Danault), and scoring touch (Andrighetto) with them. That leaves one spot between Bryan Flynn, Lucas Lessio, Charles Hudon and McCarron to fight for, and that was before Artturi Lehkonen signed and is also assuming Martin Reway and a re-signed Mike Brown don’t enter the fray.
In short, McCarron is going to have to bring it big time at training camp if the wants to make the big club. Now if someone gets moved out (Desharnais anyone?) or the Habs fail to sign some scoring help (hockey gods help us) then McCarron’s odds increase dramatically. But if he’s going to be a scratch or play on the fourth line he’d be much better dominating in the AHL alongside the likes of Nikita Scherbak until an inevitable injury opens the door for him once again.
Norman Szcyrek: As much as I would like to see McCarron start with Montreal, I don’t believe he’ll get that opportunity. During his call up this season he played well at times and other times he was inconsistent. I like his versatility to play either centre or on the wing and his faceoff skills are good. At the end of some shifts McCarron seemed winded, more so than the average NHL player so he still needs some development time in that area. His size and toughness are very good and he could slip into a 4th line role next season. But the Habs’ depth in their bottom six forwards will likely keep McCarron on the farm team for another year.