Since deciding late last month to give up an NCAA hockey scholarship to the University of Michigan, defenseman Connor Carrick has heard plenty of chatter from Wolverines fans, most of it criticism for breaking his commitment. The Capitals’ 2012 fifth-round pick understands that frustration, but he hasn’t second-guessed his choice to instead sign with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.

(Justin K. Aller/GETTY IMAGES)

The move ensures Carrick, 18, will stay busy. While playing a 68-game regular season with the Whalers, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound defenseman plans to balance a partial courseload at the University of Michigan.

After two years of living with a billet family as part of the U.S. National Development team, he’s excited to be able to live with his own family. While he’s an Illinois native, his parents and two younger brothers now live less than a half-hour drive from both the University of Michigan’s main campus and Plymouth’s facility.

Carrick acknowledged the timing made it seem like the Capitals influenced his future path. The prospect discussed his options with Director of Player Development Steve Richmond after the draft, but he said he had all but decided on signing with Plymouth by then.

Ross Mahoney, the team’s director of amateur scouting, said the organization left it up to Carrick, calling his choices “win-win.”

“At the end of the day, I had to do what’s best for me,” Carrick said. “That’s really all you can ask for. If I thought Michigan was the best route for my development, I would have went there 100 percent. I’ve changed my mind, and now I believe Plymouth is the best decision for me, I’m doing that 100 percent. There’s no looking back.”

Carrick, who won a gold medal at this year’s U-18 World Championship, wasn’t the biggest, fastest or most skilled defensman at Capitals development camp this week, but he fit in easily and even laid several big hits, including one memorable shot that knocked future Plymouth teammate Tom Wilson off his feet.

“Every shifts he’s in there, you always notice him,” Mahoney said.

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Prospect Steffen Soberg is in no hurry

Capitals sign first-round pick Filip Forsberg

Adam Oates gets to know the Caps prospects