BostonBruins.com – Brandon Carlo is just 19 years old. He was drafted by the Bruins in the second round of last year’s NHL Draft and played this season for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.
But on Thursday things changed quickly for the native of Colorado Springs, Colo. Carlo, a 6-foot-5, 203-pound defenseman, joined the Providence Bruins, kicking off his professional career.
“I was hoping that I would get that call and have the opportunity to come up here and start being around the pro guys and maybe get a couple games under my belt to help myself for next year,” Carlo said by phone Thursday afternoon after finishing up his first practice with the P-Bruins.
“I’m really excited. It’s definitely a big deal. It’s pretty much the last step until the NHL. There’s a lot to be excited about. Once I got the call and knew I was coming up here, they just helped me along and made me really excited.”
Carlo does not join Providence as an unfamiliar face. He took part in Bruins Development Camp last summer, as well as Boston’s main training camp in the fall.
“That was a smooth transition for me to come up and know a good amount of these guys,” said Carlo, who will room with Providence goalie Zane McIntyre, the same player he bunked with over the summer.
“They’re really good at welcoming you in and making you feel comfortable. It’s been great so far.”
Carlo credits the time spent at those off-season camps as a crucial piece to his progression.
“It was unbelievable being around those NHL guys and the Providence guys as well,” said Carlo, who tallied five goals and 22 assists in 52 games for Tri-City, whose season ended earlier this month.
“I learned so much in a matter of weeks than I have for all my years playing hockey just because of that experience – just really simple things [like] communication. All of that helped me out, seeing how the pro guys do it. It definitely benefited me.”
One player in particular stood out – literally. At 6-foot-5, Carlo tries to model his game after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who stands 6-foot-9 and has been one of the league’s best shutdown blue-liners over the last decade.
“If I could be half the player that he is, you’re very excited about that,” said Carlo, who was paired with Chara at times during training camp.
“I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much from a certain player. For me to be on the ice with him was kind of like a whirlwind – a dream come true.
“Every time you look over at him, it’s actually him standing there, so that was pretty cool to be able to meet him and work with him a little bit.”
After Carlo returned to the WHL following Bruins camp, he had a newfound confidence, knowing that he could compete with players at the highest level.
“Once I came out here [to Boston] and went through camp and rookie camp and all of those things, I felt more and more comfortable being around this pro level and I felt like another year in the WHL was good for me,” said Carlo.
“Overall, I feel like the way I’m developing now, it’s something I can handle and I’m starting to work towards being that pro-style hockey player.”
Still, Carlo knew he had plenty of room for growth. At the beginning of the season, the Bruins sent him videos of practice drills to work on and checked in on him periodically throughout the year.
With the game’s pace constantly increasing, Carlo focused on quickly transitioning the puck and shoring up his skating game.
“Making quicker decisions is something I’ve tried to focus on for the next level,” he said. “Over the last couple years, my skating has really developed and my hockey sense has gotten better and better.”
For Carlo, that advancement will continue – in Black & Gold.