Elite athletes can often be their own harshest critics. For some, putting pressure on themselves can damage their confidence. For others, it is a driving force for success. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Trevor Carrick is proving to be the latter.
Selected primarily as a defensive-defenseman in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Carrick is now tied for first among Ontario Hockey League (OHL) defensemen in goals with 22. Steady and physical in his own zone, the Stouffville, Ontario native has proved he can be successful on the offensive end of the ice as well, ranking tied for sixth among league blueliners in scoring with 50 points.
Carrick played the first 41 games of the 2013-14 season with the Mississauga Steelheads before being traded to Sudbury. He has notched 19 points (6g, 13a) in 26 games for the Wolves, helping them clinch a spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
Carrick credits experience and opportunity for helping his development take such enormous strides this season. In his third OHL season, 19-year-old has finally had a chance to showcase his ability to produce offense.
“I think I have always had that offensive side to my game, but being a younger guy and playing behind some highly offensive defensemen, it was more my role to play strong defensively,” Carrick said. “This year, being on the first power play and just being an older, more experienced guy, I've had a lot more opportunity to show I am capable of helping out offensively.”
Despite his progression, Carrick still acts as his hardest critic. His consistent drive to improve is a major factor behind his continued development.
“Sometimes when I'm struggling I can get pretty hard on myself, which doesn't help me get out of my slump,” Carrick said. “At the same time, I expect more from myself and I’m always pushing to get better and better.”
Hurricanes Director of Defensemen Development Glen Wesley doesn’t consider Carrick’s tendency to be tough on himself a negative at all.
“He critiques himself and is very hard on himself. That’s a good thing to have for him as a player,” Wesley said. “Sometimes when I go in there and give him an honest assessment, it’s good for me to be able to tell him to ease up on himself because mistakes will be made.”
Carrick believes his self-criticism helps prevent him from making the same mistake twice. As he has discovered his strengths, he’s been able to grow as a player and push his game to the next level. It’s also allowed him to develop as a leader.
“Being a third year player and getting the chance to go to Carolina's camp and watching how professionals work and prepare [has helped],” Carrick said. “I can share that with my teammates and bring experience to the team.”
Tracking Carrick’s career, Wesley has seen firsthand how Carrick’s self-criticism has helped him transition from his first few seasons in the OHL.
“Seeing Trevor develop from when he was first drafted to even where he is now, just from an offensive standpoint, he’s taken his game to another level,” Wesley said. “He’s a player who definitely cares. He wants to get better. He’s getting bigger and he’s getting stronger.”
Soon Carrick will again be the one learning from older teammates. The defenseman signed his first professional contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, and could join the Charlotte Checkers this spring when his junior season ends. When he signed the contract in December, Carrick was as happy as if he had seen Santa Claus emerging from his chimney.
“It was a huge sigh of relief and caught me off guard a little,” Carrick said. “I had just gotten home for the Christmas holidays when I got the call from my agent, so it was great to share the news and celebrate with my family. Best Christmas gift I've had.”
A few months removed from signing his deal, Carrick continues to hone his skills with the Wolves. However, with his professional career on the horizon, the young blueliner has been looking forward to taking the next step in his career. His offensive production in the OHL should give him confidence as his professional debut nears.
“I think I can bring a smart and physical defensive game to Carolina and can chip in offensively when I can,” said Carrick.
As Carrick continues to develop into a two-way player, he will be bolstered by his own drive to get better.
“There is still a lot for me to work on to make the jump to the next level,” Carrick said. “[That] includes getting stronger and quicker and putting on weight, as well as improving my skills on the ice.”
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