Hes only 18 years old, but Capitals defensive prospect Connor Carrick already thinks like a family man.
When the Capitals took Carrick in the fifth round of the NHL draft last month in Pittsburgh, Carrick made sure his two younger brothers, Blake, 15, and Hunter, 11, were there to soak up the atmosphere.
And when the Caps invited him to participate in this weeks development camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Carrick found a way to have his two little brothers tag along.
Maybe that explains the extra cheering Friday when Carrick scored his first goal of development camp.
I thought I heard them, Carrick said. Or maybe they were in the lobby getting nachos.
When the Capitals drafted Carrick, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder from Orland Park, Ill., had already signed a commitment letter to attend Michigan. But in the weeks that followed Carrick grew more interested in the opportunity to play for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and recently agreed to play there instead.
When people say you went back on your commitment, those are tough words to swallow, Carrick said. But they might not know all the different facets of my decision and how much sleep was lost over this decision.
At the end of the day I had to do what was best for me. If I thought Michigan was the best road for me I would have gone there 100 percent. I changed my mind and Im going to go into Plymouth 100 percent.
Although he crafted his game under the U.S. development program, Carrick said he decided to go to the OHL for several reasons. He likes the idea of playing a 68-game schedule similar to the NHL and the fact he will receive lots of ice time with the Whalers.
But he especially likes the idea of living at home with his family, which is looking to rent a home in nearby Novi, Mich. Carricks brothers are playing triple A hockey in Michigan and said his family decided its best if they stay together for the next few years.
Carrick said its important for the coaching staff at Michigan to realize that his decision was made by him and not by the Capitals.
It looked as if the Capitals pushed me one way and that could not be more wrong, he said. I was pretty much decided on Plymouth before the draft.
Many NHL teams believe Canadas major junior programs are best suited to prepare prospects for the demands of an NHL schedule, but Caps director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney said the club did not try to influence Carricks decision one way or the other.
Are we happy hes going to play there? Sure, Mahoney said. Hes going to play lots of games and have lots of practices. If he had gone to college, would that be a good decision for us? Sure. Its a family decision and we would have supported him either way he chose to go.
Carrick may not possess the size, speed or passing skills of many of the defensemen taken ahead of him in the draft, but his positional play is excellent, his decision making is quick and hes not afraid to throw his body into forwards much bigger than him.
In fact, one of Carricks hardest hits came against 6-foot-4, 205-pound right wing Tom Wilson, who will be his teammate next season in Plymouth.
Hes pretty competitive, Mahoney said of Carrick. Hes not a 6-foot-4 defenseman, but hes very competitive. He had a couple good body checks the other day. He probably surprised Tom a little bit and put him flat on his back.
As for his education, Carrick said he still plans on attending classes at Michigan while playing for Plymouth. And while that may get under the skin of Wolverines fans, hes doesnt seem uncomfortable with that at all.
If they werent really upset then youre not a very good player, he said. They are kind of confused admirers, I guess.