The 6-foot-6, 231-pound forward is eager to show Canadiens brass he deserves a promotion after surgery on his left shoulder in February.
It’s been six years — going on a lifetime — since the Canadiens made Michael McCarron a first-round draft choice.
And the 6-foot-6, 231-pound forward has been supplanted by other forwards in the organization, including Nick Suzuki, who made Montreal as a rookie this season, and Ryan Poehling, who might be the first player summoned from the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket when that time comes.
When the Canadiens recently placed McCarron on waivers, he cleared them — again — despite a cap-friendly one-year, two-way contract that calls for US700,000 in the NHL and $125,000 in the minors.
But you can’t coach size, something McCarron has in abundance. And he’s still only 24.
“I don’t think anybody has passed me by. I think I’m still a really good player,” McCarron said Wednesday before a night game against the Providence Bruins at Place Bell.
“I don’t know how I am (looked upon) in this organization. I’ve been here for a while. What are you going to do?” added McCarron, a native of Grosse Pointe, Mich. “I’m going to continue to play as hard as I can. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I’m going to be back in the NHL one day.
“My goal obviously is to play in the NHL. I’ve been here for a while. They know what kind of player I am.”
On Tuesday, the Rocket announced McCarron will be one of the team’s four alternate captains for the second consecutive season, with head coach Joël Bouchard alternating the “A” between Karl Alzner, Dale Weise, Alex Belzile and McCarron.
Bouchard, heading into his second season coaching the Rocket, made it clear he continues to believe in McCarron and will do his best to ensure he remains motivated.
“There’s nothing discouraging about Mac’s situation, just a future to look forward to,” Bouchard said. “He’s got a stick, a pair of skates and a jersey. He’s healthy. He’s a good-looking kid. He’s got a nice girlfriend. Lose hope of what? He’s got an opportunity to play.”
Nonetheless, there’s no doubt McCarron will have to play well if he wants to be summoned to the Canadiens for the first time since playing 18 games — with one assist — during the 2017-18 season. McCarron spent all last season with the Rocket. Although he was limited to 32 games due to injuries, he still produced seven goals and 21 points, proving he could bring something to the table.
McCarron’s healthy after having season-ending surgery on his left shoulder last February. And he’s recovered from the groin injury sustained at the Canadiens’ training camp. He also has worked hard on his skating, which is believed to have improved, under the tutelage of power skating coach Kathy McLlwain.
“I feel good and strong on my feet. My skating’s evolving,” McCarron said. “When I was drafted, the (Canadiens’) brass said I was a long-term project. I continue to get better. I’m a big body. We’ll see where it takes me.
“I haven’t had two good shoulders in four years,” he added. “I’m not going to be on the trainer’s table at the beginning of a game, getting my shoulder taped. I battled that for a long time. I got it done and feel 100 per cent.”
If anyone can get the best out of McCarron — and, by extension, get him to the NHL — it would appear to be the inspiring Bouchard. The coach said he’s going to push McCarron and be hard on him, which he believed worked last season.
When he was healthy, McCarron moved his feet and was intense, Bouchard said. He won faceoffs and channelled his energy to be a physical force. Not only did he crash the net, it often came while carrying the puck. In short, he wore defencemen down by the third period and proved tough to play against.
“If I’m not happy about something, I’ll let him know, but he buys in,” Bouchard said. “He’s a unique type of player for a coach to have. He has a presence on and off the ice. I want him to channel his energy, be consistent and dynamic, like last year.
“I’m going to push him. Our job’s to make sure every player has a chair when the music stops. I think Mac could have … a specific role for the NHL. He’s not going to be the first guy who goes to the NHL and has a tough time finding his identity or colour.”