BOSTON (CBS) – There can definitely be an undue burden placed on players based on where they’re drafted.
Until they started making mega money, and thus were held to a higher standard, Milan Lucic (second round in 2006) and Brad Marchand (third round, 2006) were seen as overachievers and draft-day steals.
Then there’s the case of Jordan Caron. The Bruins picked him in the first round in 2009, 25th overall, and he’s been held to a standard higher than the likes of his generously-paid current teammates didn’t have to meet when they were just 22 (soon to be 23) like Caron is now.
For understandable reasons, that first-round perspective elevates the expectations for a player for outside observers. Luckily for Caron and the Bruins, it hasn’t crushed the player’s resolve to become a NHL regular and now it might be impossible to yank him out of the lineup.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Caron in response to a question about feeling unfair pressure of being a first-round pick. “I think it’s good. I don’t think it changes anything. It’s a bit more pressure but I like it. I think it’s good pressure and it doesn’t bother me at all.”
What bothered Caron more than any artificial expectations were the injuries that derailed his third season of professional hockey in 2012-13. There was a shoulder injury and then a puck to the face that limited him to 47 AHL games and 17 NHL games during a season he repeatedly says now he “hates” to talk about. A 2-7-9 performance in 12 postseason AHL games, and a stint practicing with the parent Bruins during the run to the Stanley Cup finals, made for a positive ending to a nightmare season.
And now here’s Caron, thrust into a regular job in the Bruins’ lineup because of an injury to Carl Soderberg, playing the way the Bruins wished he could’ve played in his third year. Injuries in 2013 aside, he was trending upward after he scored 15 points in 48 NHL games in 2011-12. More importantly for a player of his skill set, Caron was doing the things that can’t be quantified and bringing a physical presence. No one will forget his collisions with Alexander Ovechkin in the regular season and playoffs.
Coach Claude Julien said during training camp that the Bruins wanted Caron to bring more offense in order to hold down a job. The coaching staff was willing to work with him to improve at the NHL level rather than have management risk losing him to waivers before a possible demotion to the AHL.
With a goal and five shots on net, not to mention his rabble rousing in the slot area, Caron’s taken the coaching staff’s words to heart.
Maybe the injury bug did the Bruins a favor in 2013. They were able to resign him to a deal worth just $640,000 against the Cap. And maybe the slowed development process will pay off. Sure there are guys in Caron’s draft class who’ve played more for lesser organizations. They’ve gained NHL playing experience, but few got to raise the Cup like Caron did and few were able to hone their game in the AHL. Like the pressure of his draft slot, being part of a crowded depth pool never discouraged Caron.
“Yeah, well I think if you look at the lineup we’ve had the last three years, I think it’s pretty tough,” Caron said. “But I mean if I would’ve been somewhere else, maybe it would’ve been different. But I’m really happy that I’ve been here for three years. I got to enjoy a lot of great things and I wouldn’t change anything for anything in the world.”
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Twenty-two is certainly too young to call someone a draft bust. And now with his health and a great opportunity to show what he can do for the Bruins, Caron’s determined to make sure that word is never used to describe him.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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