Friday, November 1, 2013

One To Watch: Montreal Canadiens

Excellent drafting has helped Montreal stay competitive in a tough division for most of the last few years. Sure they have had their lottery pick year but for the most part the Habs are picking in the second half of the first round. 

Now the organization is reaping the benefits of that drafting as their last 4 1st round picks are all contributing at the NHL level and deeper picks are finding their way too.  Jarred Tinordi, Alex Galchenyuk, Louis Leblanc and Nathan Beaulieu are the high picks panning out but Brendan Gallagher has had as big of an impact as any of them and he was a 5th round swing for the fence. 

2012 Pick: Mike Cichy - Montreal fans were all over me for singling out the mostly forgotten collegian but it was his decent into relative obscurity that intrigued me. It was his first season playing with Western Michigan after beginning his college career at North Dakota but leaving after his sophomore year. Unfortunately it was a pretty vanilla campaign with the Broncos, 4 goals and 18 points. I believe it's safe to say that unless he has a massive year at WMU this season, Cichy won't be offered a deal in the spring of 2014. 

My pick for One to Watch this year for Habs prospects comes after the jump. 

Michael McCarron (RW)
London Knights
6'6, 238 lbs
Drafted 25th overall 2013

Who isn't intrigued by a forward McCarron's size that put up respectable numbers against USHL, NCAA and international competition last year with the US-NTDP? 

McCarron's storyline got even more interesting after the draft when he opted opted to forgo his college career, signed on with Montreal and declared his intent to play in the OHL.

Heading into training camp with Montreal people wanted to see how far away the massive forward might be from possibly contributing at the NHL level. Obviously size is not an issue as McCarron is already bigger than most in the NHL.

The Canadiens determined that he would benefit from time in the OHL and so far his stats with the Knights suggest that it was the right decision. McCarron isn't producing nearly as much offence as expected, just a single goal on opening night with an 11-game scoring drought since then. 

Photo: London Knights
Is his slow start a classic case of player adjusting to a new team, a new league and new coaches or is this a concern for the Canadiens? The Knights were anointed OHL favorites be nearly everyone before the season began but they are struggling through the first two months and sit fourth in their own division. 

Perhaps McCarron's struggles are as indicative of the team's plight as much as his own. As of the posting of this feature, London does not have a player in the top 50 in OHL scoring; not what is expected of the 2-time defending champs and the 2014 Memorial Cup hosts. 

That doesn't absolves McCarron of his own futility but maybe paints a different picture rather than just a single player in a slump. 

Can he and the Knights pull out of their tail spin? Most would suggest that it's only a matter of time but if so, how long will it take? 

Is McCarron's early season slump affecting his position with USA Hockey in regard to the 2014 WJC in Sweden? The power forward was a beast at the U18s in April and some projections I have seen have McCarron penciled into a third line role.

There are a lot of question marks around McCarron right now and that's what makes him One To Watch in 2013-14 for Montreal. 

Up Next:Toronto Maple Leafs          

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