Jordan Caron has bounced between the AHL and NHL quite a bit since being drafted by the Boston Bruins 25th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He's operated mostly as an injury call up, showing glimpses of the qualities that made him a first round draft pick, but never really solidifying himself as an NHL regular. Moving to Colorado is giving him a fresh start and another chance to prove he belongs in the top hockey league in the world.
Leading up to the draft, Caron was considered to be a big-bodied power forward "with poise and defensive maturity beyond his years" (Hockey's Future). His speed was thought of as a weakness, but he made up for that with his net presence and work down low. He was touted as having good puck possession skills and a high hockey IQ.
Those assets saw him make the Bruin's team right out of training camp in his first professional season. However, he moved back and forth between Boston and the team's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, throughout the season. He logged 47 games in Providence during 2010-2011, putting up decent numbers with 12 goals and 16 assists (28 pts). His performance wasn't quite as productive in Boston as his 23 games saw only 7 points (3g, 4a). His usage, of course, was different, accounting for much of the discrepancy. In Providence, he saw mostly top-six action with significant power play minutes, while in Boston his was more of a grinder with few minutes of ice time per game.
Caron's time between the two teams reversed in 2011-2012; he saw 48 games in Boston and only 17 in Providence. His point production continued at a similar pace in the NHL (0.3 PPG) but jumped in the AHL (0.6 in 2010-11 to 0.76 in 2011-12)—an impressive feat as he was moved back and forth regularly. The Bruins Blog noted that he showed both flashes of talent and times of invisibility that season, summing up his performance succinctly:
Highlight: There was no better example of Caron’s ability to be a long-term net-front presence for the Bruins than his performance March 6 in a win at Toronto. Caron scored twice, with both his goals finding the back of the net from right in front of the goal. He also recorded an assist in 14:20 of ice time. He was plus-3 on the night.
Lowlight: Every rookie seasons features growing pains, and in St. Louis Feb. 22 Caron didn’t take a single shift in the third period. That head coach Claude Julien felt there were better players in the lineup to help the Bruins earn a dramatic victory against one of the league’s elite that night showed that Caron still had room for improvement.
Despite his consistency and reliability between the two seasons, he dropped back down to an AHL regular/NHL call up in 2012-2013 with only 17 games in Boston, all of which came after his return in early March of 2013. Certainly the NHL lockout was responsible for some of that usage. Still, it must have come as a surprise to many as he was pegged as being an impact player that season. Chris Chirichiello of Bruins Daily noted that
Although he only notched seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 48 games played, he blocked dozens of shots and was not afraid to use his body. He had 64 hits and most importantly was a tremendous asset on the Bruins penalty-kill. He is a very scrappy, hard-nosed player who is not afraid to put his body in front of the opposing team’s net to help his team.
Mark Marino added
Let me first start by saying that I am a huge Jordan Caron fan. Huge. I think he’s exactly the type of player the Bruins need, not only in their lineup on a permanent basis, but on the power play. The 2009 first-round draft pick hangs around those dirty areas around the net and isn’t afraid to pay the price. He uses his 6-foot-2 frame by parking himself around the blue paint — screening and looking for redirects and chances to jump on loose pucks. He registered 15 blocked shots, 64 hits, and 57 shots on net in 48 regular season games while averaging bottom-3 minutes at 11:31 per game. He also continues to prove his worth by logging some valuable ice-time on the penalty-kill. While I wasn’t a fan of dressing him over Shawn Thornton in Games 6 & 7 this past post season, I do believe with the right minutes and situations, Caron can be that Esposito-like player to score the majority of his goals in those nasty areas — a place where the Bruins seem to lack.
There was no expectation that he'd lock down a job on the top two lines, but his offensive upside combined with a blue-collar approach to the game projected that he'd make a difference in a bottom six role.
He certainly got the chance as all of his time in 2013-2014 was with the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, as his 35 games shows, Caron spent more time watching his team from the press box than he did on the ice. There's little to question about that move when you see his point production that season: one goal, two assists for three points. While an effective penalty killer, a consistent 0.3 PPG average that plummeted to under 1% simply wasn't going to cut it.
While Caron made the Bruins' opening night roster for the 2014-2015 season, he was sent back to Providence on October 4th, clearing waivers along the way. He bounced back and forth again between the big club and the affiliate in his remaining time with the Bruins organization, and with his confidence shaken, he didn't produce at all in the NHL. Ironically, he thrived in Providence, upping his PPG rate to 0.82 over the 23 games he was with the team (9g, 10a).
It's understandable that the Bruins' organization and its fans lost interest in Caron. He was ineffective on the scoreboard and questionably suited for a roll on the fourth line. The timing worked well for the Avalanche, an organization that has a history of taking other teams' disappointments, giving them a clean slate, and turning them into serviceable, if not productive, players.
So far, Caron has been neither good nor bad. In his three games with the Avs, he has zero points, two shots, and three hits. It's still early for him, though, as adjusting to a new team often takes a few games before an impact can be felt. Time will tell how well he'll fit with the team and what his role will be. As of now, he's winding down on a one-year contract. Should he show some promise of reigniting the talent that landed him in the first round of the draft, Colorado is sure to ink him to another deal. Should he not, however, Caron's future is unclear.