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Hard-Working Carrick Makes the Most of His Opportunity in Anaheim

The popular longtime minor-leaguer lit the lamp Sunday in his first game up with the Ducks this season and hopes for more to come

by Adam Brady @AdamJBrady /

There were no fans in the stands when Sam Carrick scored his first goal of the season Sunday night at Honda Center, but the cheers were plenty loud coming from several locales across North America.  

They came from just up the road in Ontario, where Carrick's former teammates with the San Diego Gulls (which includes his brother Trevor) "erupted" on the bus heading back home from their game in Ontario. They came from 2,000 miles away in a different Ontario, the province in central Canada where family and friends were watching, going berserk and flooding him with text messages he would see after the game and the following morning. 

And of course, they came from much closer to home on the Ducks bench, notably from the guy standing behind it, Dallas Eakins. The Ducks head man has coached Carrick at various levels in his pro career, including several years with the Gulls, and he said he knew the 29-year-old would make an impact as soon as he was summoned by the Ducks on Sunday. 

"I expected nothing less of Sam," Eakins said after the game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Arizona. "I knew before that game that he was gonna find a way to do something physically to get noticed."

The well-liked and personable Carrick's pro career has been long and winding since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft by Toronto. Since then, he's played more than 700 games at the junior and minor league levels with teams like the Brampton Battalion, Idaho Steelheads, Toronto Marlies, Rockford IceHogs and of course the Gulls, with just 35 games of NHL experience with the Maple Leafs and Ducks. 

Just how long this current stint at the NHL level will last this time remains to be seen, with one Ducks center - Ryan Getzlaf - out with an injury and Carrick's linemate from Sunday night - Trevor Zegras - getting reps at the center position down in San Diego temporarily. Carrick showed great chemistry with Zegras and winger Max Jones (both former Gulls teammates of his) in that Sunday game and especially on that goal that was set up by Zegras' beautiful feed from behind the net. 

Video: ARI@ANA: Zegras, Carrick connect for opening goal

Scoring that goal in the first game after being called up was unique for Carrick, who went 14 games before his first goal when he got his first NHL action in Toronto in 2014-15. 

"The games can add up pretty quickly without a goal or a point," said Carrick, who has just three career NHL goals but had 23 in just 46 games last season in San Diego and 32 in 61 games the season before. "So it's nice to get one early. And I think that that definitely gives some confidence going in and just kind of eases a little bit of pressure."

Carrick, who has a 2-year-old son named Liam with girlfriend Carley, lives with brother (and Gulls teammate) Trevor in Irvine near where the Gulls are playing this season at Great Park Ice. It was Trevor who first told Sam how the Gulls bus reacted to his goal. 

"He said they were they're all watching on the bus and saw me score, so that was pretty cool," said Carrick who also made his presence felt in a fight with Arizona's John Hayden in the second period. "I guess they were all pretty excited. So that's a good feeling knowing that the boys are cheering you on."

Carrick said his living situation with Trevor has been "Awesome, and we actually get along pretty good. But I kind of feel bad for our family who is just dying to come visit us and check things out. But you never know what the future holds."

Part of that family includes oldest brother Jake and the youngest, Josh, who run an organic maple syrup company called Carrick Bros., up north in Madawaska, Ontario. The origins of the business came from their grandfather's farm, where the Carrick boys spent their springs collecting sap and making small batches of maple syrup to give away to friends and family. 

"My two brothers coming out of a university were looking for something to do, something where they enjoyed going to work every day," Sam says. "They kind of stumbled upon this farm a couple of hours north of us that was already a maple syrup business. And they ended up kind of taking a leap and buying it in 2019. The first batch was last year, and it went really well. It's a lot of work, but they had a ton of fun." 

All of the Carrick boys played hockey growing up, though it's just Sam and Trevor still making a living at it. Sam's rollercoaster pro career landed him in San Diego when the Ducks made a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire him in March 2017. The coach in San Diego at the time was Eakins, whom Carrick credits for being a major influence on him for years. 

"He's been a huge part of my hockey career so far, starting with a young kid coming out of junior, turning pro and learning what the program was all about," Carrick says. "He was right there, easing me into it. I went from not a great situation where I was before that trade and coming into San Diego, where I was just rejuvenated. I felt like I got a second chance at a new life, and Dallas was a big part of that. It felt like a breath of fresh air coming to this organization, and having Dallas, a guy that I knew, was huge. I can't say enough good things about him."

The feeling is certainly mutual with Eakins, who says, "He's just a responsible, hard-working low-maintenance kid. It's been a real privilege and pleasure for me to have coached him for as long as I have. He's one of those guys who you certainly would like in the foxhole with you."

Carrick's popularity abounds with teammates, especially in San Diego, where he has been the captain the past two seasons and constantly demonstrates the work ethic and positivity of a guy who has taken nothing for granted. He says that attitude originates from his tight-knit family and an example set by his parents and grandparents. 

"Just growing up a close family with my three brothers, my dad worked really hard and my mom had the tougher job of raising four crazy boys who like to fight a lot," Carrick says with a chuckle. "Their schedule was super busy, and after a long day at work the day wouldn't be over because they'd have to take us to our practices or games. And that was every day, seven days a week, spring hockey, summer hockey and all of that. It's crazy. I really don't know how they did it. 

"Growing up my whole childhood was just seeing how hard they worked and how selfless they were. I think I took a lot from it. It's just been inbred in me."

He's spent nine years in the minors and four in juniors before that, "and I've kind of had to work my way for everything I've gotten so far. I've always been told that I'm not the most gifted skater, and especially the way that the game has been changing and it's always getting faster. I've had to kind of survive without being a gifted skater."

Carrick remains with the Ducks for the time being, but he knows better than anyone how his situation could change in the blink of an eye. For now, he's continuing to work tirelessly, make his presence felt as much as possible and "try to have a little fun along the way." That's been the approach his whole career. 

"It's been a fun ride, and the one thing I've always tried to do is not make any excuses for myself, just go out there and work harder," he says. "Sometimes it doesn't seem fair, but at the end of the day you've got to get out there and earn everything that you get.

"There have been a ton of ups and downs, probably more downs than ups. But any time there is a recall to the NHL or a game like [Sunday] night, it makes it all worth it, for sure." 

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