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PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #20 Sam Carrick

After lurking on the outside since the beginning, the Stouffville native finally breaks into the list thanks to a very strong campaign with the Marlies.

Sam Carrick has been a part of all 4 editions of PPP's Top 25 Under 25 series but as of yet had never found a way to sneak into the Top 25.

While not always profiled as such, Carrick has consistently been on the "honourable mentions" list, those few people that garnered consideration but ultimately came up just short in the final tally on our list. In previous editions, finishes of 27th, 29th and 28th last season has seen the 2010 5th round pick come close each year, but ultimately come up short.

Not this time. Following a season where he was indispensable to the Toronto Marlies, Carrick breaks through, vaulting eight places to land at 20th in our countdown.

Birthyear: 1992-02-04 Birthplace: Stouffville, ON, CAN
Age: 22 Nation: Canada
Position: RW Shoots: R
Height: 183 cm / 6'0" Weight: 85 kg / 187 lbs
Contract: 14/15
Drafted: 2010 round 5 #144 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs

You could be forgiven for looking at Sam Carrick's numbers and wondering just what the fuss is, why a player who brings decent but hardly spectacular offensive results has suddenly moved up. Are the Leafs that hard up for young offensive players (Yes, but that's not the reason). Basically, Sam Carrick is in the mould of the vaunted "shut-down centre", the sort of guy that coaches love (and advanced statistics can frequently hate) who brings value on the defensive side of the puck first, and offence comes second.

Luckily, Carrick came through one of the very best programs for that sort of player, playing for Stan Butler and the Brampton Batallion. Butler has always preached a defence-first approach to his game, usually in response to having slightly less offensive skill than their counterparts (Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchense excepted). Carrick's job in his first years in Brampton, playing behind those types of high-skill centres, was to take care of stopping the other teams' best players from scoring, and when relied upon for that role in his final season in the OHL, he did provide the scoring that was needed.

It's that past season, however, that has us as voters most interested. The Toronto Marlies are not an easy team for a young prospect further down the depth chart to make themselves a place. The Marlies of the last few years have had a mishmash of veterans and highly touted prospects that just can't quite crack the NHL who suck up all available ice time. It makes it so that a player like Carrick can have limited opportunities and that happened in his first professional season which was spent almost entirely in the ECHL. And while the panel definitely saw more of Carrick on the Marlies than we have of the previous players in the QMJHL, or NCAA, or Russia, we enlisted the help of Jeff Veillette, who watches the Marlies closely for The Leafs Nation, to give us a more detailed view on this young player.

Sam Carrick may have been the most underrated player on the Marlies last season. Strong on the forecheck and always eager to get the puck towards the net, the 22 year old was always involved in the play in some way, shape, or form. While he failed to produce to start the year, his shooting percentages began to rebound as the year progressed and was one of the most productive players on the team in the final stretch of the regular season.  He would be wise to continue working on his skating ability if he wants to have more significant role with the organization. Carrick will likely be used as a "Swiss Army Knife" for the Marlies this year, as he's capable of playing in all types of situations and all of the major forward positions. His likely upside is as an energetic fourth line NHL forward.

You can read more about Jeff's thoughts on Carrick here

This coming season, Carrick should certainly be seeing a more prominent role on the Marlies, due to the departures of many key players from last season's team for various reasons. If all goes well, it could also see Carrick become a player of interest going forward for the Maple Leafs, not just the Marlies.

Name birky BowerPower Burtch Chemmy clrkaitken Nikota PPP SkinnyFish 67 Sound FINAL RANK
Sam Carrick - 22 17 20 21 20 19 15 24 20
Previous Ranking - - 24 - 24 19 23 - 23 28

Still has limited offensive upside, but looks more like a bottom-six NHL player as he gets more opportunity in the AHL. - Steve Burtch

Carrick has at least put himself in the conversation to be a fourth liner in the NHL some day. - 67Sound

Carrick frequently sits on the edge of people's lists, gathering some people's votes but not enough to poke into the Top 25. This year, however, all voters but birky moved him into their list, giving Carrick a comfortable advantage over the five people we've already looked at so far.

The caveat to our optimism in moving Carrick up the list is the reality of the Maple Leafs prospect situation. With 39 players listed for consideration in this edition, 20th place still means that Carrick is viewed as a prospect in the lower half of young players in the Maple Leafs system. We're also talking about a player that should be a 4th liner in the NHL, which would be a great accomplishment for Carrick but shouldn't be seen as some sort of statement on the Leafs vaunted prospect system. Carrick's success or failure from here really only speaks to Carrick's development, and no one else.