As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 21: Connor Carrick, Defenseman
2014-15 NHL Salary: $625,000 [$636,667 cap hit]; AHL: $70,000
2013-14 stats: 34 games, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, minus-9, 23 penalty minutes, 15:58 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 20 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, plus-2, 14 penalty minutes
Analysis: Ideally, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan would have liked to see Carrick spend most of last season playing big minutes with the AHL Hershey Bears. Instead, Carrick split last season between playing for the Caps, Bears [13 games, 0 goals, 4 assists, 15 PIM, minus-3] and Team USA in the World Junior Championships [5 games, 0 goals, 3 assists, 4 PIM, plus-7]. Carrick, who seemed overwhelmed at times in his own zone because of his size [a generous 5-foot-11, 185 pounds] says he learned more last season than if he’d spent the year with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL and his maturity level is off the charts for a 20-year-old. But if there is a renewed organizational commitment to allowing young players, especially young defensemen, the chance to develop in the minors, Carrick will begin the season in Hershey and play a significant role there before the Caps consider calling him up. If Carrick develops under Bears coach Troy Mann the way the Caps envision, he could see significant NHL minutes down the stretch. For now he ranks behind right-handed defensemen John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Mike Green and the Caps would be wise to let him play in Hershey rather than carry him as a seventh or eighth defenseman. That said, if there are injuries or roster changes on the blue line and Barry Trotz sees the need for a right shot, Carrick could find himself back in the NHL sooner rather than later.