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2015-16 Canadiens season review: Michael McCarron

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The gargantuan forward got his first taste of NHL action this season, and it was a veritable trial by fire.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit, when the Canadiens used their first-round pick on Michael McCarron back in 2013, I was highly confused. I saw a very large guy with some concerning deficiencies in his skating, and I convinced myself that they had selected a lemon. I saw him as nothing more than an enforcer type. I was wrong.

When he chose the OHL route over the NCAA, credence was given to that idea that he could become nothing more than a fighter. While his start with the London Knights wasn't amazing, he continually improved in that league, and eventually became a vital cog for the Oshawa Generals on a Memorial Cup run.

This season was McCarron's first taste of pro hockey, and he performed admirably. Through 58 games with the St. John's IceCaps, he proved that he could use that massive frame of his for good, racking up 17 goals and 21 assists. His solid play in the AHL is what earned him 20 games this year filling in on the injury riddled Canadiens lineup.

With a meagre one goal and one assist through those 20 games, it would be too easy to stop there and call his audition with the big club a failure. However, when you dig a little deeper, you find a player who had some extremely rough usage for a player seeing his first taste of NHL action. He was basically thrown to the wolves, and his stats suffered for it.

Michel Therrien's decision to saddle McCarron with a plethora of different linemates, tough zone starts, and difficult competition was highly confusing. He was not put in a position to succeed whatsoever, so it isn't all that surprising that his numbers weren't great.

Not only did he play with a ton of different linemates - including guys like Mike Brown and Stefan Matteau - he wasn't getting used at all on the power play, and had to play both centre and wing. Obviously the injury woes affected how Therrien could use him, but it was a really tough situation for a rookie to walk into.

And the numbers suffered for it. At even strength, the Canadiens only controlled 44.7% of shot attempts when McCarron was on the ice, and had 42.8% of the scoring chances. He only started 41.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but these numbers are far from what you would like to see.

And when it rains, it pours. Not only was he out-attempted and out-chanced when he was on the ice, he had some abysmal shooting luck as well. His personal mark saw him shooting 2.6% at even-strength, and while he wasn't shooting like crazy like Max Pacioretty or anything, he just couldn't buy goals.

One stat I found interesting was his share of high-danger scoring chances. On that front, the Habs controlled 55.4% of high danger chances when he was on the ice. Again, it's a small sample, but McCarron looked very good to me at retrieving loose pucks in any zone, particularly his own. That can go a long way to mitigating the quality of chances that opponents can get on you.

It's important to remember several things when forming an opinion of his performance based on numbers. First of all, 20 games is not the biggest of samples. Then you add in the extremely tough deployment, the fact that he had a revolving door of not-so-great linemates, and that he sorely lacks the experience to overcome these things. It was a perfect storm of unfortunate realities for him.

It's hard to say what lies ahead for McCarron. The Habs will definitely want to give him a look for a roster spot next season, but the team is pretty well stocked at the centre position, so he faces a bit of an uphill battle to make the opening day lineup. At the very least, he will see some spot duty next season if the injury bug that plagued the team this year rears it's ugly head again.

Ideally, it would likely be best to try and keep him down in the AHL, where he can play on one of the top lines and continue to develop. That would likely benefit him in terms of being better prepared to eventually step into a more offensive role with the big club, which would likely be a lot better for him.

No, the numbers weren't great in his audition, but with everything that he was faced with as a rookie, it would be pretty hard to call it a complete failure.