MONTREAL – If Tuesday’s preseason opener is any indication, Michael McCarron is looking to leave a lasting impression in Montreal over the next two weeks.
Coming off an impressive Junior career that saw him rack up 42 goals, 102 points, 248 penalty minutes and a Memorial Cup championship, McCarron arrived for Canadiens training camp ready to turn pro. After making his mark at the team’s rookie tournament in London, ON, he exploded out of the gate in his first preseason game of the campaign in Montreal, scoring his first big league goal in a Canadiens uniform to kick off 2015-16.
“It felt good. It popped right onto my stick in front of the net and I put it home. I just got lucky that it ended up on my stick,” described the 20-year-old forward, who suited up for his fifth career preseason game with the Canadiens on Tuesday night. “I’ve had three years under my belt now. I just knew what to expect coming into this camp this year. I think I’ve learned from the previous years.”
Taking part in his third Canadiens training camp since the team selected him 25th overall in 2013, McCarron looked comfortable centering Devante Smith-Pelly and Daniel Carr against the Leafs. While he was happy to get his first NHL goal under his belt, he’s hoping Tuesday’s performance was a sign of bigger things to come.
“I thought I played well in a lot of areas, but there were a few areas where I could be better. I didn’t win as many draws as I wanted to and I lost my guy a couple of times down low,” admitted the Macomb, MI native. “Overall, it was a good learning experience tonight and I just have to learn from the things I did wrong.
“As a line, I thought we played well tonight,” he added. “We were throwing our weight around and it seemed like their defensemen were looking over their shoulders every time we were out there, so it was good. Carr and I played together at the rookie tournament and I’ve been playing with him all of camp now, so I feel like we’ve found a bit of chemistry.”
Dishing out five hits in his 13:18 of ice time against the Leafs, the 6-foot-6 centerman also went 50 percent in the faceoff circle and added a huge block on the penalty kill to keep the score tied at one apiece midway through the third period. In addition to earning first star honors on the night, McCarron also recruited a few new members to his growing fan club in Montreal with his performance in the preseason opener.
“Big Mac scored a nice goal, but even after the goal he continued to get better and better,” praised newly-minted assistant captain, Brendan Gallagher, who led the Canadiens with four shots against Toronto. “He played the way he has to play in order to be successful. He used his size, he was physical and he got to the net. You talk about that battle and compete level you can’t play without and he certainly has it.”
“I really liked what I saw from McCarron,” added head coach Michel Therrien of the rookie pivot. “He and his linemates were really involved in the game. They were strong on the forecheck and they were rewarded with a nice goal. It’s McCarron’s first professional year and I thought he played a solid game.”
Despite coming into his third preseason as a member of the Canadiens, McCarron admits he was surprised to find that some things – namely pre-game jitters – don’t always disappear with time.
“Today I was actually more nervous than I thought. I couldn’t sleep before the game. I wasn’t expecting that. This morning, people were asking if I was nervous and I said no,” he admitted with a laugh. “I don’t know what happened to me. I came to the game pretty nervous, but I got it out of the way in warmups and I thought I played well.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.