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Maple Leafs top 25 under 25: #7 Connor Carrick

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Coming from the Capitals is an almost NHL ready defenseman who faces a tough fight in training camp to win a top role with the big club.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s hard to find Carrick's place in the trade that brought him to Toronto. Was he the main target? Was the 2nd round pick up there with him? Was Carrick Washington’s cost for moving out Brooks Laich?

What we do know is the Maple Leafs now have a solid up and coming defenseman from the Capitals, and he placed seventh in our voting this year.

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8 8 7 8 7 8 12
JP Nikota Species 1967 Steven Burtch Katya Knappe Fulemin 50 Mission Cap Chris H
8 8 8 10 9 6 6

Voting ranged from 5 to 12, but the majority ranked him at 8. We’re well into the top 10 and one key fact that bumps players in this area is the voters read on a prospects' NHL readiness. Carrick’s tiny amount of NHL games played didn’t deter voters from ranking him above others with more experience in the big leagues.

Carrick played 34 NHL games with the Capitals in 13/14. He spent all of 14/15 with the Hershey Bears. Last season he played 3 games with the Caps, and 16 with the Maple Leafs. That's 53 NHL games over three seasons since turning pro, and ten points total to show for it.

Full Stats:

Okay, so far he hasn’t been an offensive powerhouse, but I wouldn’t expect a young defenseman to be Erik Karlsson right away, spreading about half a season over three years. What we want to know is, how does his production and usage compare to other players? Take Martin Marincin for example. He’s two years older than Carrick, but was ranked one spot lower in our Top 25 than Carrick. Marincin has had three times as many NHL games under his belt, but Carrick has ten more AHL games. I compared their AHL stats on QuantHockey.com and Carrick double Marincins AHL point totals by age 21.

When Carrick was traded to the Leafs he remained in the NHL for the duration of the season, joining the Marlies only when the Leafs were finished, and during the AHL playoffs Carrick was the Marlies leading scorer, with 18 points in 15 games.

That’s great, he can score in the AHL. Is he defensively good? Well, the best defense is a good offense right? Carrick has been a bit of a defensive weakness while in the NHL, but I can give him a pass on that due to inexperience. In the AHL he's a solid defender who can be relied upon in most situations. Last year in Hershey and Toronto has was a top pairing defender, relied upon in close situations and on the top penalty kill unit.  Carrick has earned the confidence of this coaches at both levels and has proven himself in the AHL.

I asked the SB Nation Capitals blog, Japers' Rink, for some insight to Carrick. Rob Parker was kind enough to share his thoughts:
"He's a good skater and passer that was brought up to the NHL way too soon. It sort of tainted his reputation and interrupted his development curve. He is small and had a tendency to back too far into his defensive zone, very likely related to being called up to the NHL too soon. He's got the skill set to be a darling of the advanced stats proponents (think something like Jared Spurgeon) but will provide plenty of fodder for dissent from the traditionalists. I wouldn't expect a ton of 5v5 production but could be a nice piece to a power play with some shooters."
The question is, where can he fit on a crowded NHL blue line with the Maple Leafs? His competition heading into camp is heavy; Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Roman Polak, Matt HunwickFrank CorradoMartin Marincin all have more NHL experience and Nikita Zaitsev is looking to take an NHL spot as well - no one moves from the KHL to the AHL.

Carrick will have to make the most of Leafs camp while Rielly, Gardiner, Polak, and Zaitsev are away at the World Cup. And that's fine. He's only twenty-two years old. He needs time to polish his game while learning a defensive role in the Leafs' system. If any defenders are traded away, Carrick would be my top choice to move up the Leafs defensive line up. I personally wouldn't want to see him become the seventh defenseman, he'd be more valuable, and get more out of sticking as a top player for the Marlies. However, there is the sticky point of waivers.

For Carrick to play for the Marlies he'd need to pass through waivers at the beginning of the season, and I don't want him to become Toronto's Corrado (I mean, other than the real one we have). This is a disappointing situation because he would be much better served to play top minutes in the AHL.

Connor Carrick is an NHL defenseman. If he's to stay with the Maple Leafs organization, here's hoping he makes the most of it.