Caron looking to stick
Second-year Bruin wants more this time
OTTAWA - The start of the 2010-11 hockey season couldn’t have gone any better for Jordan Caron.
Caron, the Bruins’ first-round pick in 2009, was so good in training camp that he earned an invite to Europe. Caron traveled to Northern Ireland for the team’s exhibition game in Belfast. He was in the Czech Republic for the season-opening games against Phoenix.
After sitting out the season opener, Caron dressed for Game 2 when Daniel Paille was a healthy scratch. He skated on the second line with Blake Wheeler and Patrice Bergeron.
Upon his return to Boston, Caron settled on a downtown apartment in the same building as Bergeron.
It was the end that didn’t turn out as well.
The first-year pro was on the ice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver when Game 7 ended. He was in skates and wearing his white No. 38 uniform when he hoisted the Stanley Cup.
Unlike his sweat-soaked teammates, however, Caron’s gear was dry.
During the playoffs, Caron was with the Bruins as one of the Black Aces, on recall to serve as an extra practice player. He traveled on the charters. He ate team meals with the veterans. And after Nathan Horton was KO’d in Game 3 of the Final, Caron participated in the morning skate and pregame warm-ups before each match.
But when the puck dropped for real, Caron was in a suit and tie.
The 20-year-old doesn’t plan on wearing any such outfits as a second-year pro.
“I was happy I made the team right out of camp,’’ said Caron (3-4-7 in 23 NHL games). “But I want to be better this year and spend the whole season in Boston.’’
Between breaking camp with the Bruins and finishing the season with the big club, Caron spent most of his rookie year in Providence. He was assigned there Dec. 6, came back up Feb. 7, and a week later, he was returned to the AHL.
In 47 AHL games, Caron had 12 goals and 16 assists. He was better served playing regular shifts in Providence than being a healthy scratch in Boston.
“I think they really liked him once he got settled into Providence and felt comfortable with his team,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I was told he was a really good player for them and he had some decent success with that hockey club.’’
It may be that Caron has outgrown Providence. The 6-foot-3-inch, 204-pound winger - he’s comfortable on both sides - has been one of the team’s sharpest performers early in camp. He is skating with more presence and purpose.
With the puck, Caron has been more clever and dynamic than he was as a rookie. By being strong on the puck, Caron has put himself in better positions to create scoring chances. When opportunities have opened up, he hasn’t been shy about letting shots rip. During Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage in Providence, Caron snapped off a slingshot that beat Anton Khudobin but rattled off iron.
“I think I’m stronger and less nervous,’’ Caron said. “I’m much more confident than I was last year. I think I’m a better player than I was last year.’’
The bosses have noticed. Caron has been spending time on a two-way line with veterans Chris Kelly and Chris Clark. It is a no-nonsense threesome that fits squarely into the organization’s preference for smart, grinding, hard-to-play-against bruisers.
“I think there’s a little more composure to the things he does,’’ said assistant coach Geoff Ward. “He’s more efficient with some of his positioning so that he’s able to flow within the game a little bit easier.
“Sometimes when you’re going just on straight adrenaline and you’re not thinking about what you’re doing - you haven’t seen things as much at this speed - you really have to make tremendous efforts to do one thing or another.
“With his positioning now, he seems to move back and forth really well within the course of the play. He’s able to burst the holes when he gets opportunities. And he’s able to get back in position where he can cover.’’
Clark is one of the players Caron is aiming to overtake. Both have sights on a third-line job on the wing. Clark is the savvier veteran. Caron has the fresher legs and upward career trend. Clark is on a tryout basis. Caron is in the second season of a three-year entry-level contract, carrying a $1.1 million cap hit. Clark can sign with any team if the Bruins say no thanks. Caron can be assigned to Providence without clearing waivers if he doesn’t make the roster.
Other candidates for third-line duty include Benoit Pouliot and Jamie Arniel. Jared Knight will most likely return to his junior team in London.
Short-term, Caron projects to be a bottom-six wing. But in his draft year, he potted 36 goals in 56 games for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior League. Because of his heavy shot and puck-protection skills, Caron could crack a top-six role as he gains more NHL mileage.
“I can play a third- or fourth-line style,’’ Caron said. “I can play a second-line style as well. I think I just need to play and for the coaching staff, wherever I play, to give me my ice time.
“I’m just going to work hard, earn my ice time, and play the situations they put me in.’’