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William Carrier: The Resilience, The Shift & The International Line

by Dan D'Uva @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Ask Golden Knights fans their favorite moments of the 2017-18 season, and a range of responses will surely follow. Even VegasGoldenKnights.com has rolled out a "Best Moments Bracket" for fans to help decide the matter. But for forward William Carrier - who signed a two-year contract with Vegas Friday - exactly one moment qualifies.

"Everyone remembers that first game in the playoffs against L.A.," Carrier said, recalling his first professional postseason game. "I think that first shift was really big for us. I think it got the team going for the rest of the playoffs."

That first shift for Carrier - alongside familiar linemates Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Tomas Nosek - came three minutes into the game April 11.

After a crisp breakout pass from Deryk Engellend, Bellemare chipped the puck toward the left corner. Carrier created a loose puck with a speedy and heavy forecheck, bulldozing Kings defenseman Christian Folin.

"I finished my hit," Carrier said. "I think [Folin] will remember that hit for sure."

As the home crowd roared in approval, Nosek pulled the puck behind the net, and from the right corner whipped a pass to the high slot for a waiting Shea Theodore. Then, an even louder roar. The defenseman's deflected wrist shot found the net.

"It's just a great feeling. I remember the crowd jumping and everyone going nuts," Carrier said. "That's exactly the way we're trying to play.

"You want to have a big shift," he said. "You never know what to expect on a playoff run and stuff like that, so I was kind of nervous. You get out there on the first shift and score a goal, it's pretty amazing."

Two hours later, the game was over. The score held. Vegas had a 1-0 win in its first playoff game. Carrier didn't record an assist on the historic goal, statistically speaking, but there's no doubt where that moment fits on his list of career achievements.

"Oh, that's right on top. I think that's right on top," Carrier said. "Getting drafted, and playing your first game, your first goal, but I think that shift is going to stay until something else happens, but that's one of the big keys of my career right now."

But it almost didn't happen.

Carrier was injured February 4 at Washington and was expected to miss six weeks. Setbacks delayed his return an extra two weeks.

"Frustration," Carrier said of the injury. "It's tough to be out, any player would say. It wasn't as bad because the team was still doing pretty good and guys were playing well so it wasn't as bad. But as a player you just hate being out."

On April 3, after missing 27 games, Carrier was back in the lineup. He was fresh and ready for the last three regular season games and the playoffs, having emphasized skating while a shoulder injury healed.

It was the second time he was forced to rehab while missing game action with Vegas. Earlier in the season, he sat for 16 games following a late-November injury.

"It gets harder every time. It was really hard," Carrier said.

Another injury in Game 5 vs. San Jose forced him to miss the Winnipeg series. But he returned ahead of schedule for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

"The way I play and the way our line plays, it's obviously tough to play 82 games," Carrier said. "But you don't want to get injured at any point. So that'll probably be a big key for next season."

Carrier, 23, appeared in 37 regular season games with the Golden Knights, notching a goal, two assists and 113 hits, fifth most on the team. The Montreal-born winger landed another 56 hits in 10 playoff games. A former second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Carrier had only played professionally in the Buffalo Sabres organization prior to the 2017 expansion draft.

"It was a really special year. For me, it was a lot of maturity in my game and more confidence playing with the same players all year, playing with Bellemare and [Nosek]."

Carrier dubbed the trio "The International Line" (Nosek from the Czech Republic, Bellemare from France, and Carrier from Quebec) during frantic bench chatter, noting the difference between European French and Canadian French. And, of course, Czech.

"We're all speaking a different language, but we know exactly how to play together," Carrier said.

With Carrier and Nosek recently signing new deals with Vegas, plus Bellemare under contract for another year, The International Line may reprise its role in 2018-19.

Carrier said it was an easy decision to sign with the Golden Knights, recalling the confidence he got from his exit meeting with George McPhee and staff in June.

"They know exactly what I can bring and that I try to bring it every night," Carrier said. "I try to bring energy on the ice. It could be a scoring chance or a few hits or anything out there that gives the team a spark. I think in the playoff you saw what I can bring."

Carrier said he's happy with the work George McPhee has done in assembling the team for the upcoming season.

"I think we have a really good team. We have a solid group of guys. We're expecting to have a good year. I don't think we have any targets set right now as a team, but I think guys are going to want to win the same way we did this [past] year."

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