By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
ARLINGTON, Va. - Now that Connor Carrick has signed his first professional contract and scored his first career preseason goal, the Capitals prospect admits that there's still one matter of business on his to-do-list.
"I haven't talked to my dad [since signing the contract], so I don't think he was too happy," Carrick said tongue in cheek Tuesday afternoon. "He texted me: 'Call me when you have a moment.' So I promised him that I'm going to call him."
Aside from not yet calling his father Jory, Carrick has done just about everything right since arriving to Capitals rookie camp in early September. The 19-year-old is climbing the team’s defensive depth chart on a daily basis it seems, and while it remains a long shot, general manager George McPhee wouldn't rule out the possibility of Carrick making the club's Opening Night roster.
"He's been really good," McPhee said. "He's a very smart, very intelligent player. He's got poise, he zips the puck to people, he plays hard and he's a really good player."
McPhee and the Capitals rewarded Carrick Monday with a three-year entry level contract. The 19-year-old signed the paperwork on the team's charter flight to Boston ahead of Monday's game against the Bruins.
"Luckily I got pulled up to the front of the plane so all the boys in the back couldn't give me [a hard time]," Carrick said of signing his first pro deal on just his second chartered plane ride.
"But it was a pretty cool feeling being on a flight to TD Garden to play the Boston Bruins, knowing that [Milan] Lucic, [David] Krejci and [Zdeno] Chara were all going to be in the lineup and I'm signing a contract… It was pretty surreal, it really was."
That surreal feeling would carry into the evening when Carrick skated a game-high 26:15 in the Capitals' 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins. Carrick also quarterbacked the Capitals' power play and beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask for his first career preseason goal.
"I was thrilled," he said. "What was pretty cool about that [goal] was that it was in the second period, right around the blueline and my mom and my uncle were actually right there. They were right on the glass, first row and they couldn't have gotten a better view [of the goal], so I think my mom was kind of rubbing it in my dad's face after the game that she got to see it and he didn't."
Carrick's uncle Jody Studnicka is a Boston native and his mother Debra flew from Chicago for Monday's game. Ultimately, Carrick made the trip worth their while.
"I do think they paid a good amount for those seats but I guess it was event for them and luckily I gave them something to remember. It was fun and I was happy for them that they were able to experience that for themselves."
Carrick concedes that his game remains a work in progress and that a strong showing at one NHL training camp does not guarantee a long and successful pro career. The 19-year-old is well aware that he will likely begin the season with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, but the Capitals' fifth-round pick (137th overall) from the 2012 NHL Draft is appreciative of the opportunity before him.
"It's a pretty cool feeling to take that step," Carrick said of joining the pro ranks. "I feel like I'm progressing, I feel like I’m developing and it's good to see that they feel the same way and that they're willing to commit to that belief."
"The last 24 hours," he said Tuesday afternoon, "it's been pretty cool to be me."