Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick provided management and Coach Adam Oates with a pleasant surprise at training camp, displaying skill, composure, and physicality as an undersize blue-liner who is all but certain to head back to juniors for the 2013-14 season.
But for now, as the Capitals trim the roster around him, Carrick’s still in D.C. While he hasn’t find a spot on Washington’s roster just yet, he may have played his way into a season of AHL hockey with Hershey as opposed to another year in juniors with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.
“From what I’ve been told, it’s a possibility,” said Carrick. “How strong I don’t know. How soon I don’t know. But we’ll see.”
For Carrick, the difference between the OHL and AHL is much more significant than the leading vowel, or even just the difference between being a full-time pro and a juniors standout. The 19-year-old, at one time committed to the University of Michigan, takes classes there while playing for the Whalers, whose facility is about a half-hour away from Ann Arbor. A move to Hershey, whether now or later this year, would put those academic plans on hold and mark a major shift in lifestyle for Carrick.
“I’m typically a control freak so it’s very difficult” not knowing what is going to happen, Carrick said. “I just go day by day, if my stuff’s packed, I know I’m going home. If it’s not, I’m practicing that day.”
He believes his impressive development will continue, regardless of where he’s headed when the time comes to leave Caps camp.
“I’m going to do whatever they think’s best for my development. My goal is to play for the Caps, so they’re the Capitals so whatever they say carries weight,” he said. “I’ll be put in a position to succeed no matter where I go. That’s what I’m happy about.”
He’s also grateful for the lengthy training camp stint that has given him significant ice time with the organization’s best.
“It was really weird the first day because you’re meeting these guys for the first time but you’re so familiar with them. Like I’ve seen [Ovechkin's] face before a million times, but just meeting him,” Carrick said. “It’s special, I soak it in pretty good. I’ve got two younger brothers, they can’t believe” that he is playing with them.
Carrick is the youngest player left in camp, about two weeks younger than Tom Wilson. At 5 feet 10, 197 pounds, he’s also the smallest defenseman remaining in a group that also includes college products Patrick Wey and Nate Schmidt, who are being evaluated for outside shots at the NHL roster.
It’s telling of the Capitals’ opinion of him that Carrick remains with that group as the opener nears.
“I’ve tried to work hard every day and have good details and bring good focus, and the coaching staff has responded well, Carrick said. “I wanted to do well. I prepared, I worked hard this summer.I wouldn’t say I expected all of it, but (making an impression) was my goal for sure.”