Lure of OHL, shot at Memorial Cup too tempting for McCarron to pass up

By Jason Menard
Mike McCarron - Team USA

Photo: London Knights forward and Montreal Canadiens prospect Mike McCarron spent two years in the U.S. NTDP before choosing to play in the OHL (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


With the 25th pick in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, the Montreal Canadiens hope they’ve found a big piece of their future. But in the meantime, said big piece will play a big role in the Memorial Cup aspirations of the tournament host London Knights.

Mike McCarron, the 6’5, 230-pound native of Macomb, MI, was sent back to his junior franchise early this week. He said he was looking forward to getting into his first junior match and benefiting from the coaching experience of ex-NHL players Mark (a former Hab himself) and Dale Hunter.

“[The NHL camp] was a lot of fun. It was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. Now I know what it takes to make it to the NHL,” he said. “The Hunter boys are going to do the best that they can to prepare me — I know they will.”

McCarron is from Macomb, a city with a population hovering around 50,000. For his first camp, he was able to experience Montreal — a city of over two million people — and now finds himself in London, with a population around 360,000. Needless to say, McCarron’s enjoying the variety.

“I used to live in kind of a small city,” he said. “There was no downtown area like there is in Montreal or London, so it’s kind of cool living in these kind of cities.

“The nightlife is pretty fun — but you have to lay back on that a little bit.”

As the Canadiens camp out in the south shore suburb of Brossard, McCarron said the off-ice activities were pretty routine.

“When I was in Montreal, we were in Brossard in the dix-30 area [a commercial area so named because it’s the intersection of Highways 10 and 30], where all the stores are,” he said. “We walked around quite a bit and went to movies. I watched a lot of Netflix.”

McCarron was committed to attending Western Michigan University this season. However, after being drafted by the Habs and with the option of joining the Memorial Cup-bound London Knights (who obtained his rights from the Belleville Bulls, who had drafted him in the sixth round, 107th overall, of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection), the big forward decided the Ontario Hockey League was where he should be.

“Just the history here with the London Knights and how great the coaches are here in the Hunters. I know they’re going to prepare me for my future and that’s pretty much why I came,” he said. “I don’t know if it was influenced [by the Canadiens], but they offered to sign me and that’s been my dream since I was a kid, so I really couldn’t say no.”

McCarron said he let Michigan State know over the summer that he was heading north of the 49th.

“I called them and said, ‘I decided to go the OHL route. I think that’s best for me,’ and they understood,” he said. “They’re happy for me. I had an agent who talked to me a lot about the pros and cons of both. As a big forward/winger, this would be a good stop for me.”

As a young player growing up in the U.S., McCarron said that playing in the OHL was not really discussed. But entering his draft year, the option creeped into his thought process.

“Growing up there really wasn’t that much talk about the OHL — it was all about college,” he said. “The past year, there was more talk about the OHL and if I got drafted pretty high that I was more likely to come here.”

And London having a guaranteed berth in the Memorial Cup as the tournament host was just the icing on the proverbial cake. “That added to it even more and it made the decision even easier,” he said.

McCarron should fill out his frame as the year progresses, but he knows what he really needs to do to succeed at the next level is focus on his wheels.

“I need to get a bit quicker and that should happen coming up here and playing 70 games,” he explained. “I need to get a bit stronger as well — getting my upper body and my legs bigger.

“More power. Box jumps and long jumps. My top speed is OK, but it’s my quickness and my explosiveness that has to improve.”

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