“I’m lost for words at the moment — I thought I was going to maybe be able to handle myself, but I can’t even barely think,” a soft-spoken, smiling Carlo managed to say, sitting at a podium and wearing his new Bruins’ hat and Black and Gold jersey with the Spoked-B. “It’s been unbelievable. It feels great to be a Bruin.”
After spending a week with the organization at July’s development camp, attending the rookie tournament and continuing on to main camp, Carlo can officially call himself a member of the Bruins, having inked a three-year, entry-level deal with the club on Friday.
The 18-year-old defenseman was the team’s first second-round pick at the draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., selected 37th overall.
Carlo had suited up in two preseason games with the Bruins when the signing was announced on Sept. 25.
His NHL preseason game on Sept. 20had marked his first game against older, bigger, stronger NHL competition. He held his own fairly well.
“It was a crazy feeling, going out there and seeing the crowd and everybody there,” Carlo smiled. “It was a pretty cool experience for me and I hadn’t really played against that old of guys yet and that strong and I felt like I handled myself really well and it was a lot of fun.”
At 6-foot-5, 196 pounds, the blueliner has the size to make it to the next level.
“I felt like I fit in well,” he said. “I was on the body, using my stick quite a bit, putting the body on them against the boards and played hard, so I felt pretty good out there.”
“I feel like I could definitely gain a couple more pounds just to be more sturdy on my feet, but overall, I felt like I did really well with that aspect.”
In Carlo’s second preseason game, he had to help pick up the slack when Zdeno Chara — slated to be his partner throughout the game — left early in the first period with an upper-body injury. Carlo was relied upon for vital minutes and logged 18:51 in ice time.
“You talk about young Carlo, who has come in and you see there’s some - still a young player in that body and there’s still some things he has to learn, but he’s really impressed me,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “I mean, at the summer camp here, the development camp, and right now, I think he’s handled himself well.”
“And for a young guy like that to be put in a position going down to five just a few minutes into the game and — the minutes he gets in junior — it was probably a big boost experience wise for him and I thought he handled himself well.”
Carlo also scored the goal in that preseason game that brought the Bruins within one, eventually leading to their 4-3 comeback shootout win over the New York Rangers.
“Obviously with the lineup, I was with Zdeno Chara which was really cool, but obviously we fell short there and had to go to five D, so we handled ourselves really well, kind of took shorter shifts and just played through the game,” said Carlo. “And I was really excited to score that goal, so it was a lot of fun.”
He has still learned a great deal from Chara, though.
“You know, he helps with everything — everything single thing that I’m on the ice with and he just taught me little things here and there,” said Carlo. “There’s so much within that guy that he’s shared with me, but mainly just having a good stick, using our bodies that we have is very useful, so that’s been very useful.”
With Chara now sidelined with a day-to-day upper-body injury and Dennis Seidenberg out eight weeks after back surgery, Carlo could be sticking around camp a little longer.
Technically, Carlo could play nine regular season games with the Bruins before either being returned to his junior team — the Tri-City American in the Western Hockey League — or the Bruins could burn a year of his entry-level deal.
Carlo still has much to learn, and more to develop in his game, but his is certainly on the right path and has impressed enough at camp to earn the contract.
“Obviously going through that experience [of playing a preseason game], I learned a lot right off the bat,” said Carlo. “Just being here at this camp and development camp, I’ve tried to be a sponge and soak everything up that I can, learning everything that I can, so it’s been very helpful being around the other guys like [Zach] Trotman, Chara, they’ve been really helpful to me, and also the coaches as well, they’ve just kind of helped me out, better positioning and how to play the game as simple as I can.”
When Carlo was drafted in June, Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley was excited about the defenseman’s possible trajectory.
“I think we needed to add a defenseman with his traits,” Bradley said. “He’s a transitional defenseman, but high end talent and played the first unit power play, quarterbacks the power play, walks the blueline. Has snarl, he has that little bit of grit, pushback, nastiness that comes with his game. And he’s really good - he’s a puck moving defenseman that can carry it and lug it.”
“I think we’ve got somebody that our guys, our coaches and our development guys are going to really like following and helping out along the way, because he’s got so much untapped potential that our whole staff is very excited about this player.”