Michael McCarron will be playing professional hockey next year.
The question is where.
According to Habs GM Marc Bergevin, McCarron — Montreal’s first-round pick (25th overall) in 2013 — will likely start the season with the club’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s.
But in early July, he opened the door ever so slightly.
“There’s room for a young player [in Montreal] if they perform,” Bergevin explained, per the Gazette. “It’s up to them.”
There’s reason to believe McCarron could be that young player. At 20, he boasts tremendous size — 6-foot-6, 225 pounds — and is coming off a banner junior campaign, in which he scored 68 points in 56 games for OHL London and Oshawa, then another 18 in 21 playoff games, helping the Generals win the Memorial Cup while earning a spot on the tournament all-star team.
As for his NHL prospects… well, McCarron isn’t lacking confidence.
“The way I look at it is, nobody can stop me when I’m going full speed and nobody can take the puck off me. That’s the way I think,” he said, per NHL.com. “I don’t know if that’s being cocky or not, but I just want to hold the puck as long as I can and take pucks to the net and be strong on pucks.”
McCarron’s size, strength and skill set certainly makes him a candidate for an NHL gig this fall.
Also helping his cause? A position switch.
McCarron moved to center last season and proved to be a dynamic force, while also becoming a more well-rounded player. He prides himself on versatility — “I can play on the wing or at center,” he told the Globe and Mail back in May — but that ability to play down the middle could really be to his advantage.
Right now, Montreal has Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Torrey Mitchell at center — hardly a dynamic group, and not especially deep. What’s more, Bergevin has expressed doubt that Alex Galchenyuk — the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, once thought to be the top-line pivot of the future — will ever play there.
“[Galchenyuk] is not there yet,” Bergevin explained at Montreal’s end-of-year presser. “He might never be a centerman.”
So yeah, a few factors working in McCarron’s favor.
The reality, though, is that making the leap from junior to the NHL is a tall task, even for a tantalizing prospect. McCarron will have to show remarkably well in training camp and the preseason — probably at center and wing — just to crack the Canadiens’ opening-night roster.