It's no secret the Leafs have needed right-handed defensemen in the depth chart. Both the NHL roster and its AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, have often run six left-handed defensemen this season.
After Lou Lamoriello and Leafs management made a late Sunday night trade to deal Daniel Winnik and a fifth round pick for Brooks Laich, a second round pick, and prospect Connor Carrick the team added to their thin right-handed depth chart on the backend.
Carrick adds to the organizational depth chart on the right side that had previously only included Frank Corrado and Jesper Lindgren.
Carrick, 21, is a former fifth round pick of the Washington Capitals who has blossomed into an excellent AHL defensemen at a young age.
After transitioning to the OHL after his draft year to play with the Plymouth Whalers where he stood out with a dominant 18-points playoff performance (in 15 games) as the team's best defensemen.
After making the transition to pro hockey, he played his way onto the Capitals roster for 34 games as a first-year pro before rounding out his early pro career with back-to-back strong seasons with the Hershey Bears in the AHL.
This season, through 47 games, Carrick led all Bears defensemen in scoring with 26 points. A feisty player, Carrick is an in-your-face presence despite being just 5-10.
In Hershey, he has been used as more than an offensive presence and has played on the top pairing at even-strength and on the penalty kill.
A gifted handler on the powerplay, Carrick has an extremely heavy shot that he likes to jump up into the rush and utilize. He should provide a secondary option as a top PP defensemen alongside (or on the second unit) to TJ Brennan with the Marlies while helping to stabilize their backend offensively and defensively.
This season, Carrick is one of only four non-Marlies (Rinat Valiev, Andrew Campbell, Justin Holl, Zach Hyman, Brennan, Soshnikov) in the top-10 players in plus-minus alongside highly-gifted prospect Mikko Rantanen at plus-23.
While Carrick could have added to the Marlies for a deep Calder Cup playoff run, and factor into the Leafs plans in training camp in 2016-2017, it appears he will stay with the Leafs for the rest of the season.
His shot would have been a real addition to an already offensively gifted Marlies backend and he has a real shot at becoming a regular NHL player.
Watch his first NHL goal on a backhand-forehand move on a breakaway:
Mike Babcock said in his post-skate press conference that Carrick should be making his Maple Leafs debut tonight versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.