The most advanced of Boston's top forward prospects, Jordan Caron already got a taste of NHL action in his first pro season in 2010-11. He didn't look out of place in Boston after making the big club in camp, but fell victim to a numbers game and ended up spending most of the season in Providence. He'll have a chance to stick around longer in this upcoming season with a couple openings available up front.
2010-11 stats: 23 games, 4-3-7, plus-3, 6 PIMs; 47 games, 12-16-28, minus-7, 16 PIMs with Providence (AHL)
Playoffs: Did not play
Contract status: Signed through 2012-13, $1.1-million cap hit (includes potential bonuses)
Preseason expectations: The 2009 first-round pick was entering his first professional season, and due to a broken collarbone suffered the previous summer, his first pro training camp. Thus it was not known how he would respond to the increased pace and pressure of the pro game. He was expected to compete for a spot in Boston, but some seasoning in Providence wouldn't have been surprising.
Regular-season evaluation: Caron did enjoy a strong camp, playing with poise and confidence despite his lack of experience. His solid two-way play forced Claude Julien to keep him around at the start of the season, with Caron earning a spot and getting a decent amount of ice time in the early going. After being scratched in the opener in Prague, he played in the next 19 games, scoring his first career goal in just his second game, against future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur no less. He had three goals in his first seven games, but did not score again for the big club. He did have four assists in his next 12 games, but after missing two games with the flu he played just one more game before being assigned to Providence when Marc Savard returned to the lineup at the start of December. Caron struggled a bit in adjusting to playing in the AHL, no doubt a mix of frustration over being demoted and a reflection of the lesser talent around him on a struggling P-Bruins squad. He did come on later in the year to put together a solid stretch drive, and even earned another brief call-up to Boston in February. He was less effective in that stint, with no points, no hits and no shots in three games.
Playoff evaluation: Caron was one of the handful of "Black Aces" called up to join the big club for the postseason, getting a chance to practice with the team and see firsthand the intensity of NHL playoff action. By the end of Boston's run to the Cup, Caron had been given a stall in the main locker room and was skating in warm-ups. He ever appeared in a postseason game, but was clearly next in line if further injuries struck, an indication of how highly regarded the youngster is by Boston's coaching staff. It was the same treatment the Bruins gave Tyler Seguin while he bided his time for a chance to play, as Seguin skated in warm-ups for every game of the first two rounds before making his playoff debut against Tampa Bay. "Jordan has an opportunity to live that same experience that we've been giving him," Julien said. "Besides the game, you look at ways to help your young players grow. I think that's one of the ways." Unlike Seguin, Caron didn't get a chance to apply what he learned in the postseason, but the experience should help him be better prepared for the upcoming season.
2011-12 outlook: With Mark Recchi retiring and Michael Ryder signing with Dallas, there are openings up front in Boston. If Caron can put together another impressive camp and show that he's progressed from last season, he should have an excellent opportunity to lay claim to one of those spots. At 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, he would give the Bruins some added size up front, and his solid work ethic and conscientious defensive play have already won the admiration of Julien. It won't be a surprise if Caron has seen the last of Providence, but at just 20 years old and with only one season of pro experience under his belt, it wouldn't be a cause for concern if the Bruins were to give him some more seasoning in the minors if other candidates outperform him in camp.
Coming Sunday, July 31: Marc Savard