Like most young hockey players, Jordan Caron has spent plenty of time dreaming about playing his first game in the NHL.
Growing up in Sayabec, Quebec, those dreams usually featured Caron stepping onto the ice at Montreal’s Bell Centre. And since being drafted by the Bruins in the first round in 2009, more than a few had him hearing the cheers from the Garden faithful in Boston. But not even in his wildest imagination did Caron think that his first game would take place in Prague.
“I never thought of that,” said Caron. “But hopefully it’s going to happen. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Caron is expected to be in the lineup when the Bruins kick off the regular season in Prague with the first of two games against Phoenix on Saturday. He’s earned a spot on a scoring line with an impressive showing in his first pro camp.
“He’s had a strong camp,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “We’ve used the adjective for him that he’s a professional already. He does the little things. He goes about his business. He doesn’t complain. I wouldn’t expect that from a 20-year-old anyway, but he’s just unique in that way. He’s a good kid and right now he’s on the team, so that’s a credit to him.”
Caron actually doesn’t turn 20 until Nov. 2, but the teenage power forward has already shown a maturity well beyond his years. He has been playing on a line with veterans Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, sliding into the spot where fellow rookie Tyler Seguin began camp after Seguin was moved back to center.
“They’ve come in and they’ve shown that they’re ready to play,” said Recchi of the two highly-touted rookies he’s played with so far this season. “It’s a great opportunity for them. They’re going to be asked to play a big role on the team, and it’s important. We’ve got to make them feel comfortable as well, make them feel like they’re a part of it. This is a great opportunity for them, so they should have some fun with it and see where it goes from there.”
Caron has been taking full advantage of his time alongside Recchi and Bergeron, soaking in as much knowledge as possible from two of the best forwards in the business.
“That’s the way you learn to do those little things,” said Chiarelli. “Things that maybe coaches at the time don’t tell you, the little things around the net, little defensive things, that’s how you learn that. You ask guys. Why’d you do this? Why’d you do that? And he does that a lot.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien has also noticed Caron’s mature approach to the game, both mentally and physically.
“He’s going to take a straight line and take pucks to the net,” said Julien. “This is the part that the Boston Bruins have always had in the past that has really identified the kind of team that they have. His physical strength for his age is extremely good, so he has shown us a lot of good things in front of the net where we always talked about how good Mark Recchi was. He has a little bit of that too. He goes to the front of the net, he positions himself well, and because of his size, he’s able to stand in there, tip pucks, and jump on the rebounds.”
At 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, Caron is still filling out his large frame, and he’s already noticed just how much tougher those battles in front of the net can be at this level.
“I think the biggest adjustment is the quickness of the players,” said Caron. “And the way the guys play defensively around the net. They’re much stronger on their sticks and tough to play against.”
Still, Caron is happy with his adjustment to the pro game, while acknowledging that he still has plenty of room for improvement.
“I think offensively, I didn’t get many points, but we had a lot of chances around the net and good puck protection,” said Caron after playing with Bergeron and Recchi for the first time on Wednesday against Washington. “I think I’ve done a good job on defense too. I think those two things are the reason why I’m still here.
“It feels great,” added Caron, who was unable to participate in last year’s camp after suffering a broken collarbone during that summer’s Team Canada evaluation camp for the World Junior Championships. “It was my goal at the start of training camp to make the team, so it’s great to know I’m going with the guys [to Europe] and hopefully I’ll be sticking with the team after that.”
Of course, his NHL debut will be a little different than he imagined with an opener in Prague. And he’ll have to wait a little while longer for his family to see him playing an NHL game in person, as the Caron clan wasn’t able to make the trek to the Czech Republic with him.
“They’ll have to wait until I get back here,” said Caron. “For sure they would love to come, but that’s pretty far and I have a big family. You can’t bring everyone, so they’ll be here if I play when we come back.”