Last season, Copper and Blue was able to speak with a number of the Oilers' young prospects to give our readers a chance to get to know them a little better as they develop towards their goal of a professional hockey career. We hope to continue this series again this season, and we're getting off to an early start.
We recently sat down with 2012 6th round draft pick John McCarron to discuss his upcoming Junior season with the Cornell Big Red in the NCAA. Provided below is a transcript of my conversation with him:
(Author’s Note: Copper & Blue would like to take say thank you to John for answering our questions. He was very accommodating and we’re appreciative of the time he gave us to shed light on his career for our readers.)
Copper & Blue: Before getting into hockey right away, how is school? I imagine Cornell is a pretty tough school. Are you still studying Human Ecology?
John McCarron: No, I'm actually over to business now, specializing in Finance. I got off the pre-med track so that I could focus a little more on hockey. I just have the time to put into the Biology program.
C&B: Speaking of finding time for hockey, if I'm correct you guys are just a few weeks away from starting your season, right?
McCarron: Yeah, the coaches are coming on the ice here. I think they can get on on October 6th I believe. The first day they are allowed on is somewhere around there. Right now they are only allowed two hours over the span of a week so they try to get out for about a half an hour every other day with us. Its exciting because this has been a little bit of the boring period in College hockey where you have to wait for your coaches to be cleared to get on the ice.
C&B: Are there still roster decisions to be made on they get on the ice or is that pretty much decided at this point?
McCarron: No, we have our whole team and everything. Everything is all finalized, we just can't get out there yet. With Cornell being an Ivy League school, we have different rules, I believe we're not even allowed to get started until a week after most of the other schools in the NCAA.
C&B: That's interesting. I wasn't aware of that. Moving over to who you are as a hockey player, can you discuss a bit about your style of game for Oiler fans? What do you feel are the strongest aspects of your game and what are the areas that you are focusing on developing this season?
McCarron: I'm definitely a power forward. I like to keep the puck down low, cycle the puck and get to the front of the net. A third or fourth line guy, shut down guys defensively. Kill penalties when needed.
C&B: You play pretty exclusively on the right-side, correct?
McCarron: Yes, right wing.
C&B: So, you're entering into your third year of NCAA hockey now. You were already a pretty big guy when you started in College, but with an additional couple of years of development, how do you find the game has changed as you contintue to gain experience at this level?
McCarron: Like you said, I think the experience has helped to give me the confidence. Going in to my third year, now I know more about the level of competition and know what it takes to win. Especially in our division, the ECAC, its a lot of grinding it out during 1 or 2 goal games. Just the mentality of being prepared for each game. There's only about 35 of them and that's if you go all the way, so there's nothing to save your energy for, you have to go all out every game.
C&B: You've been named Captain for this year. First of all, congratulations on that honour. I know that is not something that is given very often to guys in their Junior year, so that's an impressive accomplishment. Do you think it is going to change the way you act in the dressing room knowing that you're now going to be one of the bigger voices in the room?
McCarron: I don't think it changes too much. I think I carried myself pretty consistently in terms of how I acted in the previous two seasons. Obviously I may need to be a little more vocal when needed and helping to hold guys accountable a little more often, not I don't think anything changes too dramatically.
C&B: In terms of your on-ice role, now that you are among the more experienced guys, do you expect that your coaches may give you a little bit more responsibility during the games?
McCarron: I mean, yes and no. I've played on the powerplay since I got here freshman year. I hope to continue doing that this season. Maybe near the end of the game when we need an extra goal or if the other team pulls their goalie and we need win a big face-off or something. They might want use me more in situations like that where they can rely on me but I think overall with our team. Its the best guys that are going. Those are the guys that deserve to be out there and hopefully I will be one of them.
C&B: That's actually the next thing I wanted to ask you about. Time on ice information is difficult to come by for NCAA hockey so it is tough to know how players are utilized. You mentioned you've been playing on the powerplay since your freshman year? How much time do you typically get on the man advantage?
McCarron: We don't really...both of our units kind of rotate based on who was just on the ice, who's tired, who's going that night. I don't think we really have a defined PP1 and PP2. Its really just, who is ready to go, who is playing well that night, and who has the confidence throughout the season. In terms of my time on ice...I don't know. I guess you could say about half of each power play. (laughs)
C&B: You mentioned killing penalties before as well. Is that something that you have been doing throughout your time at Cornell so far, or is that something that you are hoping to do more of as you continue to gain more experience?
McCarron: Yeah, I think that is where I go next at this level. I don't know how much power play time I will be seeing unless I'm just parked out in front of the net, but I think that penalty killing is a niche that I'm going to have to continue to work on to be able to kill penalties at the next level and block the big shots for the guys. I haven't been a penalty killing guy yet at Cornell because I don't think I was ready to log both the power play and penalty killing minutes in addition to my regular five-on-five shift.
C&B: So penalty killing is a new responsibility that you anticipate taking on this year?
McCarron: Yes, and as I move forward in my hockey career.
C&B: So now that we've talked about the special teams, let's focus your game at even strength. Can you talk about how your coaches have used you in the past and, I guess, how you expect them to use you in the future? Are you out there against the other team's top players? Are you a guy who starts a lot of your shifts in the offensive zone or do they tend to send you out there for draws in your own end?
McCarron: I think it goes back to what my coach is feeling that night. My freshman year I played with a centreman named Sean Collins, who plays for Columbus now, and we were out there a lot against the other team's top line and we were out there for a lot of big Dzone face-offs because he was really good on draws. Again last year, we had a lot of injuries with our centremen, so our lines kind of shifted every now and then, but I guess I'd say first or second line I've been on both years, so offensive situations are key, but also those big draws near the end of the game or near the end of a period in our own zone he likes to put some of the top guys out there for those.
C&B: You're a guy who likes to incorporate some physicality into your game and with that frequently penalty minutes are inevitable. You had 84 minutes in penalties last year despite playing in two fewer games. As a physical player, is it a challenge to make sure that you bring that style of play but avoid situations that result in putting your team a man down? How do you and your coaches try to manage that?
McCarron: Yeah, I mean, a considerable amount of those penalties came in two games last season. I got kicked out of one game for fighting in college, where you're not even allowed to fight. That is one thing I do need to work on though is my discipline. I get caught up in the moment, and being a physical guy and always going hard you can get caught taking some stupid penalties. Usually I try...I mean...hitting penalties, my coach understands that if it is a big hit its going to fire the team up and they're going to kill it off and we'll get some energy from that, but dumb penalties where you're slashing a guy or punching him in the face for no reason...I gotta stay away from stuff like that. Like I said though, the majority of those minutes last year came in two games. I think I got three 10 minute misconducts in one game against Quinnipac and same thing in another game.
C&B: Now, you're not the only guy in your family who is an NHL draftee. You're brother was drafted by Montreal this year.
McCarron: Yeah. Yeah he was.
C&B: If I'm not mistaken, he was initially considering a number of NCAA options, including coming to play with you at Cornell, not a little while ago he decided to go the OHL route and is now playing with the London Knights. I was wondering if you could discuss a bit why you decided to go the NCAA route for your own personal development?
McCarron: I think a lot of it had to do with actual development. I think the fact that he was already 6'6" and 230-240 lbs. or whatever he is as an 18 year old, he doesn't really need to physically mature in college I guess. Also, coming from the US program he did where he had some of the best training every single day over the course of two years, I think it really helped him get to a point where he can go play in the OHL and probably take a faster route to the pros. Whereas, for myself, I needed that extra year of Juniors, I also take a lot of pride in my school work and obviously getting an Ivy League degree, if I tear my ACL on my way to the pros I have a nice back-up plan. I think the majority of it was development for me. There's no way I would have been ready to go to the OHL and two years later try to make it to the pros, so I think playing these four years in college is really going to help me develop and give me a better chance to make it.
C&B: I can certainly understand that. As a player who was drafted as an overager initially, I was going to ask if your experiences have taught you to be more patient with regard to your hockey career. There's certainly no downside to getting an Ivy League education while you pursue your hockey career.
McCarron: No, certainly. I think that's huge for me. But I also think that being a late overage draft pick and never really being the top dog has taught me that I need to continue to work and hopefully it works out in the end.
C&B: Switching gears now, I'd just like to ask you about your relationship with the Oilers. What has it been like attending their development camps? I know because you're in the NCAA you're not allowed to attend the main camps that are going on now, but you were there in the summer with all the other prospects. What was that experience like?
McCarron: Actually, this was the first year that I was able to attend. My draft year I didn't end up going. It was the day after camp and the flights were pretty outrageously expensive from Detroit. Because I'm in the NCAA they aren't able to cover the costs, so I didn't make it out there for the first camp, but this summer was awesome. I was finally able to put some faces to names and learn and meet the new upper management and Rick Carriere the development guy as well as all of the other draftees including some guys I've played against like the Jones twins from Quinnipac. It was cool to see them when I'm not battling against them. It was good. I can see that Edmonton is definitely a hockey town. They really support the Oilers well and I'm excited at the possibility of playing in the new rink someday.
C&B: Are there guys that you're keeping in touch with during the main camp?
McCarron: At camp I kind of got along well with Tyler Bunz. I was there for a few extra days and he kind of took me around and showed me around because he's from that area. I text here and there, like when he got his goalie mask stolen, I shot him a text message or two. He took me golfing and stuff while we were out there and he's a good guy. Other than that, I mean, the Jones twins I'll be seeing them a couple of times this year, and I'll keep in contact with them a little bit.
C&B: Last question for you...what is your interaction like with the Oilers during the course of the season. Are you in constant contact with them?
McCarron: We kind of each have...its called an IDP or Individual Development Program and starting when my season starts, every couple of weeks they will update a log and ask you how your progress is towards the goals that you made in your development program. They also come out in person. I think Rick Carriere is going to come out a few times this year and a couple of other guys will come out to see me here and there sporadically. I think the contact is going well. Compared to some of my teammates I don't think some of them talk to their programs nearly as much, so its good that I'm constantly getting feedback. Whether it is negative or positive, its all constructive. I'm just really looking forward to getting things started here soon.
Follow John McCarron on twitter at @johnny_mack14