Connor Carrick is honest, humble, and positive. There are many more adjectives that can be used to describe the 5’10” Orland Park, Illinois native who was drafted in the 5th round by the Washington Capitals in 2012.
On a team loaded with talent like the Capitals, it would be easy to be discouraged about not getting a chance to play full-time in the NHL, but the 21-year-old who played 34 games for the Caps in 2013-2014 and recently played in three more for Washington before rejoining the Hershey Bears in what may be his best AHL season to date, which is saying something after last season’s 42-point performance, was not discouraged to return to the AHL.
“It’s just a fun place to play,” Carrick said of Hershey. “That team up there has some bona fide NHL superstars all throughout their lineup, so as a call up, you’re not the biggest part of that team,” he continued. “When you come down here, as a player who is in between sometimes, you have a bigger role on your AHL club, and that’s fine. As a competitor you want to be the reason why your team wins and loses games. I have more of an opportunity here to do that. That’s first and foremost what you look forward to.”
The defenseman has been a sparkplug on defense for Hershey this year ranks 28th in scoring for active defensemen in the AHL. His +14 rating is 18th in the league, and he has one of the three shorthanded goals for the Bears this season.
Carrick’s recall to Washington came December 17th, and the team struggled through the first two games without him as injuries and recalls left Hershey Head Coach Troy Mann juggling lineups during the team’s 7-game home stretch, but for Carrick, it was an early Christmas gift for himself, but more so his family.
“When you get that phone call it’s extremely rewarding, but the best part is the phone calls you get to make after that one ends. I called my girlfriend, called my mom. She was jacked up about it. Then my dad and my brothers. That’s what’s cool about it is the positive energy it creates around your family and your friends. Everyone’s more excited for you and sometimes as a player you forget that everyone’s pulling for you and it’s times like that it’s a pretty strong reminder.”
So when he was returned to Hershey on December 22, one might have expected Carrick to be disappointed, but that is far from the truth.
“It’s seemless; you’re excited to come down. I know the team at the time was struggling a little bit, so it’s a great to come down and kind of be a little bit of a positive energy,” he said. “Professionally you’re expected to put forth a positive energy and that’s what coaching staff and the players deserve, so I try to do that for them.”
And in doing so, the 21-year-old shows a level of maturity beyond his years. That work ethic, humble nature, and on ice prowess earned Carrick his second straight trip to the AHL All-Star game later this month.
He’s earned praise from Bears Head Coach Troy Mann too. “Carrick’s very warranted,” Mann said noting that from last season to this season, Carrick’s +/- has increased by 25. “He’s having a great season. Points-wise the biggest difference in Carrick’s game is he’s becoming a more two-way defenseman…I think for a 21-year-old he’s certainly rounding himself into a good 2-way defenseman so he’s well deserving,” Mann said of Carrick’s selection.
By Julie Beidler