Stu Cowan: Some Fatherly Advice Helped Canadiens’ Daniel Carr Make it to NHL
Here’s something most teenagers hate hearing: Father knows best.
It’s probably not what Daniel Carr wanted to hear after every team took a pass on him when he was eligible for the NHL Draft.
But guess what, kids? Often those words are true.
“I think I had a little different outlook on it,” Carr said Friday after the Canadiens hit the ice for the first time at training camp in Brossard. “I was fortunate enough that my father was a player agent a long time ago. And he said when I didn’t get drafted: ‘You’re mad now, but this is the best thing that could ever happen to you.’”
Jim Carr played for the University of Alberta in the late 1970s and after graduating represented some former teammates who made it to the pro level. Not being drafted gave his son a chance to spend four full seasons at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where he could work on his game and develop both physically and mentally in a university environment.
“You don’t realize it until you’re a senior in college and you’re coming out and you’re just like: ‘Oh, maybe he was right and he actually knows something,’” Carr said about his father. “The biggest thing is just keep getting better. Being drafted doesn’t make a difference. If you can play, you can play. You got to get better every day to get here and to stay here.”
Carr impressed the Canadiens enough at Union College for them to sign him as a free agent. He joined the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2014-15 season and posted 24-15-39 totals in 76 games. He started last season with the Canadiens’ new AHL team in St. John’s and made his NHL debut in December, scoring a goal on his first shot on his first shift in Carolina with his father, mother Marj and brother David all in attendance.
Carr ended up playing 23 games with the Canadiens, posting 6-3-9 totals. He would have played more, but missed two months following a knee injury in late January.
The 6-foot, 188-pounder spent the summer working on his speed and power, skating a lot during July and August. Now he’s ready for a new season and has something he’s never had before: a one-way NHL contract. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin signed the 24-year-old to a two-year deal this summer worth US$1.45 million and Carr celebrated that night by having dinner with his family.
“I think it’s one of those things that you have it, but I don’t think it matters much,” he said about the one-way deal. “I still think there’s a lot of competition in camp here and you got to come ready to play every day.”
Carr is on Team A at training camp and skated on left wing during Friday’s 2-0 win over Team B with David Desharnais at centre and Sven Andrighetto on the right side. Alexander Radulov (on a penalty shot) and Greg Pateryn scored the goals.
“Today was the first day, so things are going to grow,” Carr said about his line. “Davey’s got such good vision and Ghetto’s got such good speed. “
They could make up the Canadiens’ No. 3 line when the regular season begins, but Carr says he’s still fighting for a job.
“It’s the same every year,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, it’s the NHL. It’s the best league in the world so nothing’s ever easy and nothing’s ever given to you, so you got to earn everything you get.”
There’s a lot to like about Carr. He plays with the same tenacity as Brendan Gallagher and has displayed some soft hands in the tough areas around the opposition’s net — a place where not enough Canadiens forwards seemed comfortable last season.
He plays a style of hockey that coach Michel Therrien loves — and don’t let Carr’s rosy cheeks and boy-next-door look fool you. The kid is tough.
“For me, that kid’s a hockey player,” Therrien said. “He’s going hard to those dirty areas to score goals. Even today, I thought he had a good scrimmage.”
Last season was a big learning experience for Carr as he got his first taste of the NHL and proved he can play at this level.
“I think it’s the little things in the game that make all the difference,” he said. “The game, it happens fast and you got to go to the areas where the action is. I think you got to play a game on the inside … that’s what I learned. Just go to the hard areas and that’s where good things happen.”
While he has that one-way contract now, Carr still isn’t looking too far ahead. When asked if he has started searching for a permanent home or apartment in Montreal, he said: “No. One day at a time.”