A familiar face showed up in Chinatown on Tuesday as defenseman Connor Carrick greeted fans at an open house at Verizon Center, posing for photos and signing autographs as fans shopped for season tickets.
“I’m excited to get back. It’s been a long summer,” said Carrick, who flew in from his home in Chicago for the day.
After impressing coaches during training camp, the 2012 fifth-round draft pick earned a spot on the roster last season. It won’t be any easier this coming season.
The Capitals boosted their blue line with the high-profile signings of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Already stacked with veterans John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, John Erskine and Jack Hillen, playing time in Washington may be hard to come by for young defensemen such as Carrick. This comes after the Caps dressed 14 different defenders in 2013-14, many of whom were brought up from the Caps’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
Well aware of the competition, Carrick is doing what any motivated young player would do. “I pretty much work out and skate every day. It kind of varies week to week but it depends on what’s on tap. I squat pretty heavy and run pretty hard. I skate quite a bit. I’ve got a good mix.”
But it’s not just longevity and talent that Carrick feels he’s competing with for a roster spot. Only 20 years old, Carrick considers that extra training only goes so far. “I take the offseason pretty seriously, especially a young guy trying to compete with the strength of men. There’s just a strength that comes with having kids and drinking beer and those kind of things. These guys have it and I try to compete with it.”
Aside from working out, Carrick is spending his summer the way many people his age might spend it. “I went to Cancun with my family. We go every year. Then I was able to go out to the NHL [Players Association] meetings with my dad to Pebble Beach. My dad is an avid golfer so that was a trip that was mandatory – I had to go.”
Carrick has a couple of fond memories from his 34 games with the Caps during his rookie season. “Best memory was probably walking into the locker room in Chicago and seeing my jersey there. I remember they were doing the Stanley Cup banner raising. I was right next to where you go out, and I could hear the song, the ‘Here come the Hawks, the mighty…’ It was a song I grew up on – I know that song – and it was the first time I didn’t sing along with it.”
Carrick also reflected on his first career goal, a highlight-reel breakaway from the penalty box in October against the Flames.
“I’ve seen clips of that, and I don’t think there’s been a moment when I could parallel the pure joy that was there in that moment.”
The goal came with a surprise after the game. During interviews in the locker room, Alex Ovechkin put a towel full of shaving cream on Carrick’s head. He didn’t flinch, and continued answering questions. “I really didn’t know how to react. I was trying to stay composed for the interview. Now that I’ve seen clips I probably should’ve lightened up a bit. That was my idea of being ‘professional’ at the time. I got off real easy. Willie (Tim Wilson) got it tough.”