Michael McCarron takes part in the Montreal Canadiens rookie camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday, September 6.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL — Michael McCarron says the Canadiens didn’t try to influence him when he had to make a decision between accepting a hockey scholarship at Western Michigan University or joining the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
But he admitted Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might have nudged him toward the junior option when he offered McCarron a three-year, entry-level contract.
“It was a dream come true,” said the Michigan native, who will carry a $1.137-million cap hit when he makes it to the National Hockey League. “My goal is to play in the NHL and I thought playing junior hockey would allow me to play my game and improve my skills.”
At 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, McCarron is part of the Canadiens’ drive to get bigger and more physical. One of his skills is fighting, which is frowned upon in the U.S. college ranks. McCarron didn’t waste any time showing his pugilistic talent last week in his first exhibition game with the Knights.
Sarnia’s Nick Latta took exception when he thought Max Domi took a run at his goaltender. But before Latta could get to Domi, McCarron stepped in and used a considerable size advantage to neutralize the threat.
“I had to stand up for my teammate,” said McCarron, who was selected by the Canadiens in the first round (25th overall) of this year’s NHL draft.
Lest you think McCarron is a one-trick pony, the Canadiens drafted him primarily because they think he can be a classic power forward and he also scored a goal in his OHL debut as London thrashed Sarnia 5-1.
“I was glad that I got the first one out of the way,” he said.
McCarron said he’s enjoying life in London, where he is being tutored by the Hunter brothers, Dale and Mark. But as the Canadiens’ rookie camp moved to the ice in Brossard Friday, McCarron said he was in no hurry to get back to the Knights. He expects to play in some of the seven Canadiens pre-season games this month and he’s hoping to show enough to start the NHL season in Montreal.
“It would be great if I could stick around and play a few (regular-season) games,” he said.
McCarron’s first impression of the rookie camp is that everything moves at a faster pace. He played against college players last season when he was with the U.S. national development program, but said he realizes the pace is quicker at the pro level.
“I have to concentrate on moving my feet,” he said. “I don’t want to be a pylon.”
McCarron has opted for the same route defenceman Jarred Tinordi took to the NHL. Tinordi made a commitment to play university hockey at Notre Dame, but opted to join the Knights after the Canadiens drafted him 22nd overall in 2010.
“Playing junior worked for me and I talked (to McCarron), but I didn’t try to influence him one way or the other,” Tinordi said. “That was his decision and he had to decide what was going to be best for him.”
While McCarron is hoping to stick around for a few regular-season games, all signs indicate Tinordi will be in the lineup when the season starts against Toronto on Oct. 1 at the Bell Centre. But Tinordi rejected a suggestion that he had a roster spot and it was his to lose.
“I think it’s just the opposite,” he said. “It’s strange being in a rookie camp after being in the playoffs last season, but I am a rookie. I’ve only played eight (regular-season) games and I have to prove I deserve a spot.”
Tinordi is one of eight defencemen with NHL credentials, and his size — he’s 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds — and physical play are in demand. The Canadiens did sign free-agent defenceman Douglas Murray late in the summer, but Tinordi said he was more excited than threatened by the added body.
“We play a similar style and I think I can take advantage of his experience and learn from him,” Tinordi said.
One indication the Canadiens intend to keep Tinordi came this week when he was among 22 players participating in the team’s annual golf tournament.
The rookie camp runs through Monday and there are opportunities for fans to see the youngsters in game-like situations. There will be scrimmages open to the public at 4 p.m. Saturday and at 11 a.m. Sunday and Monday. About half of the 40 players will be invited to stick around for the Canadiens’ main training camp, which gets underway with physicals on Wednesday.
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