by Matt Smith, Staff Writer/Social Media Specialist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Mike McCarron (Photo by Getty Images)
Mike McCarron (Photo by Getty Images)

Mike McCarron will complete his fourth rookie camp with the Canadiens on Wednesday. His performance this past weekend at the Rookie Tournament in London was arguably his most remarkable to date.

McCarron, a 2013 first round pick (25th overall), was thought to be a risk when the Canadiens selected him as high as they did, as he was ranked 35th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, but it looks like the Canadiens scouting staff made an educated gamble. The question now, is Michael McCarron ready to take the next step as a full time NHL player or would another year in the AHL playing top minutes be more beneficial?

McCarron arrived to camp at 226 pounds (down from 237 pounds last season) having taken his off-season training very seriously and  incorporating a new diet. His performance at the rookie tournament reflects his hard work as he tallied four goals and an assist, centering a line of Artturi Lehkonen and Nikita Scherbak. McCarron was also named team captain for the tournament.

Through 58 games played for the St. John’s IceCaps, McCarron scored 17 goals and added 21 assists for 38 points during his rookie season. Despite being in his first pro season, McCarron was called on time and time again, playing all special teams situations and encountering top opposition. He was also named to the AHL All-Star Game.

McCarron’s strong play in the AHL warranted him 20 games with the Habs last season, filling in on the wing and at centre on an injury plagued lineup. With the Canadiens, McCarron scored his first NHL goal, added an assist, dished out 49 hits, earned 37 minutes in penalties (including three fights) and was just over 50 percent at the face-off dot.

Despite being an NHL rookie, McCarron’s physically intimidating presence was notable each time he stepped on the ice, especially on a team lacking toughness. He gained the respect of many fans after dropping the gloves with Anaheim Ducks defenceman Kevin Bieska, a player who is no slouch when it comes to fighting after Lars Eller was the victim of a big hit.

It will be intriguing to see what Canadiens management will do if McCarron is just as strong during the Canadiens main training camp. While some are already penciling McCarron as the Canadiens third line centre for the 2016-2017 season, could this actually happen? Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin has repeatedly said that he will make room for the youth if they force his hand, and with how McCarron is looking, he could very well do that.

We’re all very aware of the David Desharnais situation: an overpaid ($3.5 million cap hit), undersized centre who still finds himself playing on the top line, with elite linemates, in critical situations (regardless of fans yelling loudly at their televisions.) As a third line centre, a position customarily assigned to an energy or shutdown player, I just don’t see where Desharnais fits as he can’t fill either role.

Not only is his skillset lacking Desharnais comes at a very high price. By comparison, Mike McCarron has a cap hit of $863,000. As for fit, McCarron can deliver energy with a heavy forecheck and a willingness to go to the front of the net. Throw in wingers such as Andrew Shaw and Daniel Carr (two more players willing to go to the dirty areas) and we have a line that most teams will not want to play against. This type of line could provide a real spark to the Habs bottom six.

However, as good as all this sounds, Michel Therrien is still the head coach. It appears that David Desharnais isn’t going anywhere soon. Besides, paying a player $3.5 million to play on the fourth line doesn’t make much sense, while moving him to the wing would not be wise either as it would take a roster spot from a younger, more deserving player.

I hear you. As you read this, many of you are yelling ‘TRADE HIM!’  Given that there is no market for Desharnais, a trade is unlikely without  giving up an asset with him, or taking on another bad contract. Putting Desharnais on waivers could be an option, but he would most certainly go unclaimed. It can be argued that he might be more of a detriment than an asset in St. John’s.

Regrettably it appears that fans will have to endure one more season of David Desharnias. This will make it much more challenging for McCarron to become a regular in the Canadiens lineup, push himing back to the AHL, where he would be the number one centre of the IceCaps.

In my opinion, Mike McCarron is just what the Canadiens are lacking in their full-time forward lineup. McCarron is a player who can  provide toughness, be an intimidating presence and contribute offensively. If McCarron continues this pre-season with a convincing showing at the Canadiens main camp, he could potentially become the big, powerful centre that the Canadiens have been looking for. With the right wingers complimenting him, who knows what he is capable of?

What do you think Habs fans? Will Michael McCarron be on the Habs opening day roster?

  • Fred Arshoff

    I do feel Mike is NHL ready but his biggest obstacle will be that the HABS have more players presently on 1 way contracts then allowed so unless a trade is made I see him starting in the AHL and be the 1st call up if and when the HABS get injuries, that is unless a trade is made.

  • Bart

    I think Mike’s time has come….as a third line centre. That makes Desharnais expendable. Either buy him out, or place him on waivers….some team just might pick him up. If not, is he eligible to be bought out? I’m just concerned that some of our young guys (Hudon, Andrighetto, McCarron, etc), will sign elsewhere once their entry level contracts and RFA status is concluded, if we don’t start making room for them…..Therrien notwithstanding.