When we did these rankings last year, there were a few disagreements regarding who placed where. None of them dragged on as long as the one involving Sam Carrick, however. I ranked him at #12, while most of the staff didn’t have him on their lists at all. In particular, Justin thought I was being quite silly.
Fast forward a year, and Carrick is in the top twenty. Here’s why.
There wasn’t a ton of pressure on Carrick to be a top-end player last year, but many were hoping to see him show some of the positives that he displayed in the season prior. This includes myself; my high ranking was centred around his production climb in the latter half of the season. His significantly below average shooting percentage regressed back up, leading to a spike in production while producing consistent shot volume without sacrificing his physical edge.
Carrick continued that hard-nosed, eager play this year. In 59 games, he put up 9 goals and 18 assists. This is lower than the year prior, but with the mid-season additions of Byron Froese and William Nylander, Carrick’s offensive role diminished won the stretch. Despite this, he still finished with over two shots on net per game, bringing him near the upper half of the roster.
As well, Carrick continued to play on the penalty kill. Though, with the Marlies finishing 28th in shorthanded situations, that may not be something to phone home about. As well, Carrick was often part of the reason for the team being a man short; his 117 penalty minutes lead the team.
More importantly, his consistent efforts earned him a couple of call-ups to the Maple Leafs throughout the season. In that time, he put up slightly above relative average possession numbers with the team, while getting slightly above average zone starts. Really, sixteen games isn’t a big enough sample to call him a good or bad fancystats player, but it was enough time for him to score his first NHL goal.
Coincidentally, I witnessed this goal from a box directly above the Leafs net. With me? None other than Justin. All the more reason that I’m declaring myself the winner of this beef. Carrick was rewarded with a 1-Year contract extension for his efforts in May.
The Year Ahead
Carrick is the type of prospect who might not necessarily have elite upside, but he has the potential to play his role very well and he’s a relatively safe bet to get to where he’s expected to be; an NHL bottom-six. There’s a reasonable chance that he will continue to receive call-ups from the team in the event of injury, trade or suspension. Carrick is able to slot in at just about any forward position, and his low cap hit of $600,000 affords the team further versatility.
While on the Marlies, Carrick will likely be responsible for manning the third line and the one of the penalty kill units. Byron Froese remains ahead of him and William Nylander will shift back to centre as well, but with Greg McKegg now a member of the Florida Panthers, the competition isn’t as fierce. Both of the bottom six lines will likely get equal ice time, meaning that both he and Ryan Rupert will get very similar opportunities to succeed. Depending on what position Nylander gets played in on the powerplay, Carrick could also find time on the second unit.
Overall, guys like Carrick are good to have in your organization. Players who can do all the “gritty” things like hitting, fighting, blocking shots, and the like while still being able to keep up with the play and contribute offensively are definitely useful, and if you’re not giving up significant assets to get them, they’re worth picking up; especially if you can keep their cap hits low. It’s not outrageous to say that he’s already paid off the 5th round pick used to select him, and that there’s still some time left for him to add even further value to the organization.