MONTREAL – After getting his first taste of the NHL last season, Daniel Carr is hoping to be a mainstay in the Canadiens’ lineup this year.
With that goal in mind, the 24-year-old left-winger has been hard at work all summer long preparing himself for what he hopes will be a breakout campaign in the big leagues.
Carr, who signed a two-year contract on July 1st, put up six goals and nine points in 23 games for the Canadiens in 2015-16 after making his NHL debut in early December. He sustained a right knee injury in late January, though, that cost him 27 games before he returned to active duty for the final four games of the season.
With his knee back in fine form, Carr spent the first couple of months of the summer training in British Columbia with a group of players led by Brendan Gallagher’s father, Ian, a renowned strength and conditioning coach in the Lower Mainland. It marked the third straight year that Carr has enlisted Ian’s help with his offseason workout regimen, which had him working out alongside the likes of the Canadiens’ No. 11, Lance Bouma of the Calgary Flames, and BC natives Ryan Olsen, Spencer Humphries and Josh Nicholls.
“With Ian, it was a lot of strength work. We did deadlifts, squats, and things of that nature just trying to build the base. Once you build the muscle, then you try to make it as explosive as possible. My numbers went way up this time around, which is really good to see,” said Carr, a member of the training group since signing a two-year entry-level deal with the Canadiens out of Union College in April 2014. “Ian does such a good job out there. He’s so detailed in his planning, which you can see in how strong Brendan is in everything today.”
Speaking of the four-year NHL veteran, Carr can’t say enough good things about the way he goes about his business back on home turf leading up to the start of a new year. Simply put, it’s inspiring to see him at work.
“Gally is such a competitor. He’s trying to beat you and then you’re trying to beat him back. It pushes the whole group. By the end of the summer, you’re jumping on boxes with five Olympic plates stacked under them because everyone is trying to jump higher than the next guy. Being in that kind of atmosphere makes you better,” explained Carr, whose playing style has often been compared to that of his fellow Albertan. “That’s one of the things that’s made him the player he is today. Every day in the gym, he’s pushing himself so that no one can beat him. You see how he’s made himself an elite NHL player. You try to learn from that.”
The current phase of Carr’s offseason program has taken him to the town of Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod where he’s spent the past month working with skating and skills guru Paul Vincent, who currently works as the head skills instructor for the Florida Panthers, as well as local strength and conditioning coach Michael Donoghue. Carr plans on remaining in Massachusetts for the remainder of the summer to put in as much work as possible with both Vincent and Donoghue alike.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people in my life on skating and skills, but Paul is the kind of guy who gives you a drill to teach you to do something, whether it’s fixing different parts of your stride or working on takeoffs and crossovers. That’s the way I like to learn. I’m feeling lighter on my feet, which is big for the way I play,” said Carr, before expanding upon his current focus in the weight room. “Mike will have me do things like a heavy sled push straight into a full sprint to get all of my muscles firing at the same time. I’m working on building speed.”
That’s one of many key aspects of Carr’s game that really stood out when he was in the lineup on a regular basis before going down in Columbus and missing two-plus months of game action. It was quickly apparent that the former AJHL and BCHL standout had all of the tools necessary to succeed at hockey’s highest level. After all, Carr did manage to register his first career NHL goal on the very first shift and shot of his career back on December 5 in Carolina.
“I learned that if given the chance, I can compete there. That was the biggest thing, knowing that and coming into the summer making sure to give myself the biggest chance to get back there this year. There’s nothing quite like skating onto the ice at the Bell Centre, so you want to give yourself the best chance to get back to it,” mentioned Carr, knowing full well – based on his experience last year – what it will take for him to impress the Canadiens’ brass once again come training camp in September.
“That’s my game, being strong on the puck down low, beating guys off the wall to the net, and making little plays in tight to score goals. The better you get at that, the more chances you’re going to get,” added Carr, a former three-time 20-goal scorer in the NCAA ranks. “Last year, I think I started to learn the details of the NHL game, and I learned what I have to do to be effective at both ends of the rink. It was good going into the summer knowing the parts of my game I had to improve to be there all season long.”
Feeling good about his progress both on and off the ice over the past few months, Carr is eagerly anticipating returning to Montreal to make his case for a full-time spot with the Canadiens.
“It’s been too long a summer, and I think at this point I’m just feeling the excitement of getting closer to getting back at it and playing hockey again,” concluded Carr. “Now, everything starts new, and you’ve got to earn your spot. That’s my goal. I think things are going in the right direction for me. It’s just about coming to camp ready to go.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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