BROSSARD - Those young guns moving on to the Canadiens' main training camp are eager for their shot at cracking the roster in Montreal.
With the start of camp set for Thursday morning at the Bell Sports Complex, prospects like Michael McCarron and Artturi Lehkonen are looking to continue impressing the Canadiens' brass in the hopes of being full-time NHLers come mid-October
Having tasted the NHL ranks for 20 games last season, McCarron has a good idea of what will be expected of him in the days that follow in order to be a permanent member of the squad in his second year as a pro.
"I've just got to bring that energy every day. I'm a big body. If I take a day off, you're going to notice me on the ice. I'm a big slug when I don't move my feet," shared McCarron, who spent his offseason training in London, ON to be a real force for Michel Therrien's troops. "That's something I wanted to work on this summer, being more explosive and really working on my foot speed. This year, I'm ready to go and I'm ready to tackle this main camp."
Video: McCarron on securing a roster spot in Montreal
If the 21-year-old Grosse Pointe, MI native does manage to accomplish his goal, he isn't going to be fussy at all about the position he'll be asked to occupy up front. While the former OHL standout has a preference for playing down the middle, being on the wing would be just fine, too.
"It's a privilege to play in the NHL. Wherever they see me fitting in the lineup, that's where I'm going to work my skills at," said McCarron, who chipped in with one goal, two points and 37 penalty minutes for the Canadiens last season. "I like to take draws and it gets me more involved into the game, but at the same time so does wing. You get in on the forecheck faster and you conserve a bit more energy for the forecheck in the offensive zone. Either way, it's a positive and I'll take what they give me."
For his part, Lehkonen is adamant about doing everything in his power to be a member of the big club when the season opens on October 13th in Buffalo. Like McCarron, the dynamic left-winger is coming off a strong performance at the 2016 Rookie Tournament in London, ON and is hoping to keep that momentum rolling into the next phase of the process.
"The first thing is I want to make the team. That's why I'm here. That's my goal for this year, for sure," insisted Lehkonen, who is coming off a record-breaking scoring streak during the Swedish Hockey League playoffs that helped to pace Frölunda to the coveted Le Mat Trophy title. "It's hard to say my odds. This is my first camp, but I know what I'm capable of. I believe in myself, so I'm just going to perform. We'll see what happens."
Suiting up in Southwestern Ontario afforded the 21-year-old Piikkiö, Finland native a chance to get accustomed to maneuvering on the smaller ice surface, which will ultimately be his battle ground now that he's made the jump to plying his trade in North America.
Video: Lehkonen looks ahead to training camp
"The Rookie Tournament in London was good to get under my belt before the training camp starts. The first game was good. It was about getting used to playing on a smaller ice surface. There's less time and space. But, the game is still the same anywhere. The guys on the team that scores more goals win the game," mentioned Lehkonen with a smile, knowing full-well that his comfort level on NHL ice will quickly be put to the test in Brossard. "At main camp, it's going to be more high-tempo and the time and space are going to be even less there. I've gotten used to it."
So, what is Lehkonen hoping to demonstrate to team brass early and often in training camp practices and scrimmages alike?
"When I'm at my best, I get a lot of shots. I want to score goals. I consider myself as someone who can make a difference in a game when I'm at my best," concluded Lehkonen, who certainly demonstrated those qualities in London playing on a line alongside McCarron and fellow standout, Nikita Scherbak. "I can really change the emotion of the game, too."