It’s a delicate balance for college players who somehow have
to find time for both their studies and also for hockey. The student cannot afford to let either
responsibility to take over from the other because the relationship between the
two is symbiotic. Most players are at a
certain school because its team recruited them but at the same time most of the
individuals are also there to get their education to prepare themselves for
life after hockey.
Eddie Caron is one of those types of people who are definitely
keeping his eye on the long-term plan.
Caron, an extremely intelligent student, was a second round draft choice
by the Edmonton Oilers in 2001 after a sensational year at Phillips Exeter
during which he amassed 50 points in just 17 games.
Currently attending the
last year, a decision that put his hockey career on a temporary hold. NCAA transfer rules prevented Caron from
playing games last year after jumping from UNH to Yale and then back to UNH
The entire situation was complicated and from a hockey
standpoint, would appear to be less than smart.
However, taking into consideration that Caron is viewing the big picture
and not just a hockey career, one can understand the thought process he had
when making the switch to the famous Ivy League school for academic reasons.
But the possible ramifications to his hockey development
were there and don’t think the Oilers were thrilled with the decision.
“I’m just as baffled as everybody else is at the turn of
events in his career,” claimed Oiler scout Chris McCarthy earlier this
year. “I think Eddie’s grown up and he’s
figured out that he wants to be a hockey player and this is where I need to be and
this is what I need to do.”
Caron used to weigh in at nearly 230 lbs of solid muscle,
but realized after the Oilers top prospects camp in
June that he would have to trim down to become a better player.
“He used to be very muscular, almost muscle bound and very
robotic, there was no agility to him at all and he’s really changed that,”
McCarthy commented. “I saw him play
recently and he was very impressive. His skating and his foot speed have
improved and his agility… he actually looks limber.”
Caron is a power forward who has the ability to put up
offensive numbers, his finally year at Phillips Exeter is a testament to
that. In just 17 games Caron was able to
light the lamp 30 times while adding 20 helpers that season, totals that
obviously attracted the attention of the Oilers scouting staff.
By comparison, his first year at UNH and currently, after a
year off from competition, Caron’s point totals do not come close to representing
the player he was prior to college. In
limited action as a freshman Caron had just 13 points and so far this year has
just 6. This is a clear indication that
his role in college has changed dramatically from what it was in the USHS.
“(Eddie) is playing
on the third line there but he’s playing a lot on the third line,” Kevin
Prendergast, Oiler VP of Player Operations, said around Christmas time. “He’s playing very physical, they have two
small lines and one big line and he’s on the big line. He’s had opportunities to score but the puck
just hasn’t gone in the net for him. The
night we were there he hit the crossbar once and had a semi breakaway so he’s
getting the chances to score they’re just not going in the net.”
“By sitting out a whole season
last year, we’re prepared to give him the leeway and wait until the second half
and I’m sure they’ll start going in then,” said Prendergast.
Oiler scout Bob Mancini feels that
point of view.
on an Olympic size surface which probably isn’t conducive to his game, and they
play a style which probably isn’t either, but for the Edmonton Oilers it’s the
best place for him to be,” Mancini reasoned.
“He’s being forced to skate on the big surface and he’s having to play
an up tempo game so from a development standpoint there could not be a better
place for him to be.”
But does Caron’s point production, or lack thereof,
worry the Oilers?
“There are a lot of NHL players who go through
college who were not great college players,” Mancini’s rationale began. “There’s a kid in New Hampshire named Shawn
Collins who is absolutely hands down a better college player than Eddie Caron,
but he’s 5’7”. If you want a great college
player you take Collins but if you want an NHL player, do you really care what
Eddie Caron is doing right now? No, I
care about what he’s going to be doing in three years.”
Hockey’s Future was able to speak with Eddie Caron after
practice last week from the Wildcats’ arena in
HF: The Oiler media guide lists that you hail from
EC: That’s right, my hometown is
HF: Is that where you
played most of your hockey as a kid?
EC: It is. I played for the Gate City Wings.
as “The Gate City” so that was the name of our team.
HF: Until what age
did you play there?
EC: Up until I was
about 10 and then I moved to the Massachusetts Metropolitan League to start
playing against better competition. In-state
at the time, was a bit limited but it’s come a long way since then.
HF: Your last year at
totaled 50 points in just 17 games? What
kind of a team did you have that year and what was your role then?
EC: I was playing
first line left wing with two other great players; it was a really fortunate situation for me. One of the other players (Tom Cavanagh) has since ended up at Harvard and the other
fellow was Colin FitzRandolph who plays for
St. Lawrence. It was just a situation
where I was playing with two great players.
We moved the puck really well and I kind of knew where those two were
going to be before they even got there so it was a great year for me.
HF: Was the step up
to NCAA harder than you expected it to be?
EC: It was definitely
a difficult step for me. I think the one
thing I need to keep working on is keeping the pace of my game up and handling
the puck with confidence. I’ve only
played for two seasons, I’ve been in college for three years but because of a
unique transfer situation I’ve only played for two years. I think I’ve made some progress but my career
is still young.
HF: You scored 50
points that last year in the USHS, and your production
dropped significantly in your first year of college so I’m assuming that there
is a big adjustment period.
EC: It was a big
adjustment for me. My role on the team
my freshman year was obviously different than I was used to. I put my head down and did what I needed to
do and I think that I made some good strides during my freshman year. We play a pretty tight system here at UNH so
I learned a lot on that level but it’s been a learning process for me the whole
HF: You mentioned the unusual transfer and you know I have to
ask you about that.
[laughs] Oh, of course!
left UNH after one year, transferred to Yale, did not play the entire year, and
then returned to UNH for this season.
What was the story behind all of that?
got to be the strangest situation you’ve ever encountered! There was a question in my mind on whether I
wanted to go to an Ivy League school. My
academics mean a tremendous amount to me and that’s one thing my parents have
always stressed on me and I have an extremely influential older sister and
brother who stress it on me a bit too, so I thought maybe I wanted to go the
Ivy League route. I got there and it was
a wonderful situation both on and off the ice.
It wasn’t what I expected in the classroom because it wasn’t
tremendously different. I ended up
missing the coaching staff up here at UNH and I missed my friends
tremendously. The way it worked out, it
was a tough thing to try and go back but in the end it worked out
because I got a waiver to play the whole season this year.
you explain the transfer rule for our readers just so we all understand what
you transfer at the end of a year and go to another institution, you have to
sit for a period of one year. I sat for
that year but I transferred back to UNH half way through so technically
I wasn’t supposed to start playing this season until about three weeks
ago. I applied for a waiver and by a
stroke of incredible good luck, I got it but it was a pretty unique situation
because nothing along those lines has really happened before. The NCAA cut me some leeway that’s for sure!
scout that I talked to told me that part of your attraction to transferring to
Yale, aside from the academics, was that there were some players there that you
wanted to play with.
definitely. There were a couple that I’d
had some contact with in the summer and over the course of my young career and…
do you want me to say who they were?
name I was given is Chris Higgins (MTL).
got it! Chris Higgins, in my
eyes, is the real deal. I think he may
have already played in a few games for the Canadiens but he’s the full
package. To have the opportunity to be
around someone like that is a pretty special thing and sitting here talking
with you I can still remember specific plays that I made with him in practice
at Yale. That was definitely part of
HF: Shortly after you got there he decided to go
He was a little too good!
That’s wonderful for him and his family so I wish him the best of
luck. I still get a word out to him
every once in a while.
HF: The way you said
you missed everyone back at UNH, so did Higgins’ leaving make returning to UNH
a much easier decision to make?
the time I decided to come back to UNH it was only halfway through last year
and he hadn’t made his final decision to up and leave but to be quite honest, I
knew that was coming on the horizon anyway because he’s such a great player and
it was just a matter of time. It really
didn’t have too much of a bearing on my own situation though, I just really
missed the environment that I was in up here at UNH. It’s a pretty unique culture here; we have a
really good relationship with the coaching staff and one that I think is pretty
unique in college hockey.
HF: I was
going to ask what kind of training you had in the off year but you mentioned
practicing so does that mean you were allowed to workout with the team but not
EC: I was
allowed to practice at Yale and at UNH during my time of ineligibility. I didn’t get to do many of the special teams
drills because if you’re ineligible, obviously there is no reason for you to be
getting any work on the PP or the PK. I
had a lot of opportunities in a lot of drills to play with Chris and before and
after practice to do some things with him.
Both coaches made pretty significant exceptions for me to feel like I
was still a part of the team even though I was ineligible.
it tough to keep your competitive focus during the layoff?
was the most difficult part. As the
season went on and I hit last summer, the question was still whether I was
going to be able to play right away this year.
That was the most difficult time for me.
I remember agonizing over it because it had been so long since I’d played
in a game. You can only practice for so
long, ride the bike for so long before you start questioning your ability to
produce in a game situation and it’s something I’m still dealing with today.
did you rely on most for support or advice during that time at Yale?
would have to say that from top to bottom, the roster here at UNH. For them to come together and accept me back
into the group so readily was a pretty special thing and something I won’t soon
forget that’s for sure.
HF: With the lost season, how many years of
college eligibility do you have left after this one?
still have two years left after this year.
Under NCAA rules I have five years in which to fulfill four years of
eligibility so the layoff doesn’t affect the years of eligibility, just the
of the Oiler scouts I talk to often says that you dropped some of the muscle
that you once had. What convinced you
that you needed to do that and how much weight did you lose?
dropped about ten pounds mostly because when I came out to rookie camp at the
beginning of summer, I realized that I was going to have to start spending a
lot more time on the bike and execute everything in my game at a higher
speed. I was carrying around extra
muscle and I needed to tone down a bit and that’s what I did. It’s worked out well for me actually. I’ve picked up my speed a bit, but that’s
definitely a work in progress for me, but I’ve made some steps in the right
you play against other Oiler prospects from other schools, is there ever time
for friendly talk before or after the games?
EC: [laughs] Let me tell
you about social talk with other Oiler prospects! I play against one from
Platt. He and I will give each other
a casual hello at the beginning of a game and we usually find time after the
game to catch up. I’ll tell you I burned
him once to the outside but he sure didn’t forget about it because about ten
minutes later he tried to line me up on the same move but I feel it was
an even collision. It was good stuff!
are you studying and how do you balance the academics with the hockey so that
you can excel at both?
EC: I am
majoring in finance here at UNH. It’s a
tough balance. You have to do some different
things after practice than what the norm is, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing
to make to make myself a two dimensional person. I hope the day when I’m done with hockey
doesn’t come for an extremely long time but I’m trying to prepare myself for a
career in the commodities industry. I
love hard assets so we’ll see if I can get myself into that racket at some
point in the future.
HF: Do you have a
timeframe for when you want to turn pro?
I assume you will be completing college first?
EC: I’m slated to be
finished my academic studies in May of 2005 but I still have that year of
eligibility left after that so I could still go to graduate school here and
continue working on my academic career as well as my athletic career but that’s
like a game time decision for me.
There’ll be time for me to think about that over the summers.
HF: You were a second
round pick in 2001. There must be some
added pressure on you being selected that high.
EC: Yes sir. Over the course of my career that’s definitely
been a part of my life that the pressure has been there for me. It’s something I have to learn how to deal
with and I haven’t accomplished everything I’d like to at the collegiate level
yet. I’ve learned form mistakes I’ve
made in the past but like I said before, I’ve still got a ton of work
ahead of me. I’ve got to speed up my
game before I’m ready for anything like that.
HF: Did you have any
interested in drafting you?
EC: That was a couple
years ago now but I can remember my interview during the combines went
particularly well with the Oilers.
HF: Tell me about the
prospect camp last June in
EC: It was definitely
a learning experience for me. It brought
together all the guys from all over the world and it really showed me how
quickly things move at that level and it gave me an idea of the level of
conditioning that I need to strive for.
It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of the coaching staff
HF: Was there one lasting impression you took away with you?
would say the level of competition. I’m
kind of sheltered here in college because I’ve got the whole school thing going
on the side but I know at some point I need to switch gears and concentrate 150
percent on hockey.
you find yourself hanging out with anyone in particular? You mentioned Platt earlier.
hung out a lot with Brad Winchester, Platt and Kenny Smith
from Harvard. It was a pretty good time
and it actually brings a smile to my face thinking about that week.
HF: Will you
be back for the camp this summer too?
EC: I can’t wait!
HF: What do you bring
to the table on a nightly basis?
EC: At the level I’m
at right now I’m a physical player and I’m trying to hone my game to the point
where that’s something I use to budget the rest of my game. I’m not a big fighter but I like to use the
body out there and it’s something that gives me an advantage. I try and break the mold of ‘the bigger guy’ and
bring some speed too but that’s still a mix that I’m trying to tweak and get
HF: Young players who
are not yet in the NHL are inevitably compared to someone who is. Who have you heard yourself compared to?
EC: That’s a loaded
question because obviously I’m not comparable to anyone playing in the NHL but
I like to turn on the TV and watch John Leclair play
and I mold myself after his style.
HF: How has your
season with UNH been this year on a personal level?
EC: My role has
changed, I’m not a prolific goal scorer yet in college and that’s pretty much
my number one goal. I’ve done a lot to
work towards scoring more. Hopefully I’m
going to catch a few breaks here and I’m bringing everything I’ve got to the
table at practice and then bringing it hard on game night too.
HF: Do you go by Ed,
Eddie or by a nickname?
EC: Eddie or my
teammates call me “Ed-ron” like the company
(Enron). That comes from a keen interest
in securities that some of them have picked up in the past couple of years.
HF: What would make
this year a successful one for Eddie Caron?
EC: I’ve had some ups
and downs this year and I’ve only got about two months left so I’d like to come
out and start scoring some points on a consistent basis. That’s pretty much my number one goal to tell
you the truth.
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