Connor Carrick got to his locker, took off his gloves and haphazardly shoved them on the first shelf above the stall. Then he quickly took them out and hesitated, glancing over to Martin Erat’s neighboring stall to see how the 13-year veteran stored his equipment, just to make sure he was doing it right.
“Still getting used to it,” Carrick said with a sheepish grin.
The 19-year-old Orland Park native, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, will be learning on the fly this year. Carrick not only made the Washington Capitals roster out of training camp, the 5-10 defenseman was in the lineup Tuesday night against his hometown Blackhawks. Heady stuff.
“It’s incredible,” Carrick said before the game. “I’m so honored to be in the lineup tonight, to be able to play where I’m going to play, with some of the guys in this room. It’s really special for me.”
Saturday’s preseason game at the United Center, in which he played more than 22 minutes, was a nice primer for what to expect in the season-opener. But he’s hardly unfamiliar with the building. He couldn’t remember the first game he attended at the UC, but he was there for Game 3 of the Western Conference final in 2010 against San Jose.
“[Dustin] Byfuglien scored the OT-winner and celebrated on one leg,” Carrick said. “I remember is clear as day. Still one of the loudest noises I’ve ever heard.”
Carrick said he managed to secure 10 tickets for friends and family, but “I don’t think that’s going to be enough.”
Carrick never played for Carl Sandburg High, moving away at age 16 to play on the U.S. National Development Team for two seasons and then the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League last year, where he had 12 goals and 32 assists in 68 games. He played for the Chicago Fury and Chicago Chill before that.
While Carrick’s inclusion on Adam Oates’ opening-night roster came as a surprise to many, he said he knew he had a real chance to make the team based on the feedback he was getting throughout camp.
“I spent a lot of time on the game when I was a kid,” he said. “I really love playing hockey. I love the details of it. That’s why I’m so excited to be at this level. These guys are so good, Coach Oates, coach [Calle] Johansson, they’re so demanding in their details and I kind of eat it up. I really enjoy it.”