Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Michael McCarron is training hard in London with Jarred Tinordi, and that's good news.

We'd heard that Michael McCarron trained last summer in London with former Knight and Habs prospect Jarred Tinordi, and I thought that was great news.  Jarred has demonstrated a seriousness, a commitment to his physical training, and the proof is in the pudding.  From a gangly 205 lbs. youngster when he was drafted, Jarred has added some serious muscle, some size since then, and weighs in at 227 pounds according to the latest update on the Canadiens website.  And you can tell it's 'good weight', his traps and neck are markedly more developed then before.  He's not puffy in the face, it's not cheeseburger weight.

So that was a great help for Michael to start his pro career, even though his initiation to the OHL wasn't smooth.  There's nothing to help motivate you like a good training partner, especially one who's stronger than you.  We hoped that he'd put in another good summer of training, and come back bigger, badder, better next season.

And that seems to be what's in the offing, since Mike is training again this summer with Jarred Tinordi and Bo Horvat among others in London, under the direction of a physical conditioning coach.  He has already put on five pounds this summer, and weighed in at the prospects camp at 241 pounds.  Martin Lapointe said that he's come into camp bigger, stronger, and leaner, that his body composition measurements are all improved this summer, so he's shedding some french fry-derived baby fat.

Michael also said the team has asked him to work on his speed, so that’s what he’s focusing on right now in the gym.  Some may think that's paradoxical, putting on weight yet working on quickness and speed.  A poster on social media brought up the point that usually a player drops weight to get quicker.  David Desharnais did that very thing last off-season.

In Michael's case though, we need to remember that he's a growing boy, still a teen, and he'll just naturally add weight as he fills out.  We definitely don't want him to be dropping weight at this stage of his development.  He's not a rolly-polly kid like Alexis Pépin, a guy who didn't train and didn't pay attention to nutrition, and now needs to slim down to become a pro.

Further, when a player adds muscle in the amounts that Michael McCarron and Jarred Tinordi do, most of it ends up in the legs and the hips, the core.  So it's not dead weight that needs to be lugged around the ice, but rather extra cubic inches for the engine.  It's muscle that helps a player go.

If Michael is training hard, doing squats in the gym and box jumps and plyometric work, if he's running stairs, and doing his work on the ice, and eating lots of protein, his quads and glutes and hamstrings will grow like weeds, like when Wile E. Coyote sent away for those ACME pills.  He's a growing boy, he's got lots of testosterone, packing on muscle is no problem for a kid like that.

So I'm happy that Mike, since he has that giant boyish frame anyway, is packing on some meat, which will make him quicker, faster, more explosive, stronger on his skates, and improve his balance.  A lot of the critiques of his play, that he's 'not on the puck' but rather chasing the play, that he takes a while to get going, that he's not very agile, that he doesn't hit that hard, he has a hard time lining up a player and really unloading on him, that he falls down a lot after contact, all these issues can be addressed by him being stronger and more explosive in his legs and hips, and stronger in his core.

Another concern we have with Michael is what next season will look like for him in the OHL.  It's a foregone conclusion that he will end up back in junior, even though the AHL is technically an option for next season.  In reality, he still hasn't progressed enough to show that he's ready to play against men, against pros.  Another season in junior will allow him to hone his skills at a level appropriate to his ability right now.

I thought he might be traded to another OHL team, one that's likely to contend, for picks and young players, as the Knights rebuild from their Memorial Cup run team.  Instead, Dale Hunter speaks like he will be back in London and will play a prominent role.
«Nous avons besoin qu'il le soit et il le sera. Il va éclore à l'attaque et noircir sa fiche de points»
Translated: "We need him to be a frontline player and he will be.  He's going to break out offensively and get on the scoresheet."
So for now, it looks like the Knights won't go scorched-earth like the Blades did last season, trading away any veteran player of value in return for young players and rebuilding after going for broke the season they were hosting the Memorial Cup.  Instead, the Knights will have a few good players still, notably Mitch Marner who is projected to go in the first round of the 2015 draft.

Also, Bo Horvat, who some saw as a likely member of the Canucks next season, now will have a tougher row to hoe, with the patch job that Jim Benning did to retool on the fly.  It's now thought that Mr. Horvat would have to play on the fourth-line, and there is some debate as to whether he'd be better off in London playing 25 minutes a night.  If that was the case, Michael McCarron would have some decent linemates to play with and learn from.

So a big role change for Michael, compared to the fourth-line minutes he received for much of the season last year.  And if he's up to it and shows great improvement and produces, there's yet another step he can climb, by taking part in the World Junior tournament for Team USA in January 2015.

A positive aspect is the attitude of Michael relative to his performance last season.  He's not trying to snow anyone, he admits he didn't perform that well, and has to improve a lot next season, as he stated at the prospect camp.  He said flat out that not getting selected for the 2014 World Junior team in December stung and was a wake-up call.

One final consideration is the progression Jarred Tinordi showed between his first and second OHL season.  I remember one of the RDS boys, not sure if it was Stéphane Leroux or Renaud Lavoie or someone else, who explained that when they first saw Jarred at the prospect camp after he got drafted, they were dumbfounded, he seemed so uncoordinated compared to the others.  The next season, it was like night and day, he came in with more size, coordination, skill, and the pick now made a lot of sense to that observer.

We can hope that Michael, having faced a lot of the same hurdles that Jarred did, in terms of growing into his huge body, and making the jump from the USNTDP team to the OHL, shows the same development curve at camp and next season.

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