Michael McCarron was rated as a top prospect who fulfilled the expectations to be a first-round selection at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft when he was selected, 25th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens. On July 11, 2013, the team signed him to a three-year entry-level contract.
At the start of his career, McCarron trained with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program from 2011 to 2013, and won a Silver Medal with Team USA at the 2013 IIHF World U18 Championships. When McCarron left the NTDP to join the London Knights, in the Ontario Hockey League, he admitted he didn't realize how difficult the transition would be from playing two seasons in the United States Hockey League to the OHL.
Going from playing 19 games in 2012-2013 to 66 the next season, including many back-to-back games, he struggled in his rookie year where he scored 34 points (14 G 20 A).
McCarron was originally drafted as a right winger until he joined the Knights, where he was switched to center. It was an experiment gone right. He's been swapping back and forth ever since, going where he's needed.
"Wherever they need me, I'll play," McCarron says. "I like playing two positions. It gives me a better opportunity to make an opportunity for myself."
With Alex Galchenyuk finally moving to center for the Canadiens, sooner rather than later, they're going to need another big, strong player to join him. Especially if Tomas Plekanec leaves in free agency after his new two-year contract expires.
At 6'6, 231 lbs, he's hard to miss on the ice. He plays a simple, no-frills game and likes to set up shop in front of the net using his big frame to block the goalies line-of-sight and bang in any pucks in and around the net. His board play is also effective, as he utilizes his large frame to gain position and cycle the puck with relative ease.
McCarron was traded to the Oshawa Generals just before the OHL's trade deadline in a deal to help the Generals become bigger and add some playoff and Memorial Cup experience. He admits he needed quite a bit of work once he joined the Generals, saying his conditioning wasn't what it should have been for a player at that level.
When he played in the 2013-2014 Memorial Cup with the Knights, they weren't able to go the distance. But the following year, he helped the Generals take home the Cup with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Kelowna Rockets chipping in with one goal and two assists during the tournament.
Since joining the Montreal Canadiens American Hockey League affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps for the 2015-2016 season, he already has two hat tricks under his belt and we're only halfway through the season. His first hatty came during the home opener against the Rochester Americans on October 17th, with the second just before Christmas break, again on home ice, on December 16th against the Albany Devils. He's now sitting at eighth on the AHL Top Scorers list, with 24 points (13 G, 11 A) in 28 games played. Just two spots behind his fellow teammate Bud Holloway.
The 20-year-old insists he doesn't want to look too far ahead, instead wants to focus on proving himself in his first pro season.
"Obviously I want to play in the NHL," McCarron says. "That's my goal. I want to be ready when I get to the NHL. It's my first year of pro hockey. We'll see where it takes me. I'm super excited. I came into the year prepared."
After showing his hard work in the OHL and AHL, the NHL came calling earlier than expected. Most assumed that the plan for McCarron was to stay with the IceCaps for the full season but the Canadiens have reconsidered due to the current injuries and line changes. McCarron earned his first call up on December 18, in hopes of providing a Brendan Gallagher-like spark for the Canadiens.