Brett Carson made a few noticeably good plays Sunday night, but most of his game was quietly solid en route to a sneaky 22 minutes of ice time, good for third-most on the entire team.
For a 23-year-old defenseman going up against the likes of Alexander Ovechkin in his first NHL game, flying under the radar should be thought of as a considerable success.
“That was my whole game plan, just try not to make any blatant mistakes,” said Carson. “If I can go the whole game unnoticed, especially early on, that’s a positive for me.”
“I thought he played very well, and that was as tough of a game for a defenseman to play,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “There was a heavy two-man forecheck from a team that’s down a goal, and they just kept pounding.”
Carson’s NHL debut was a long time coming. The Hurricanes turned to Albany for defensive reinforcements six times last season following his impressive training camp, but each time it was Casey Borer, Tim Conboy or even Joey Mormina who got the call, not Carson.
After some conversations with then-Director of Player Development Ron Francis and the rest of the Hurricanes staff, he worked hard to get in better shape over the summer to make sure that didn’t happen again.
“You try to be as up front and honest with those guys as you can,” said Francis. “I think for me in the past, his conditioning needed to get better so that he could play at that higher level for 22 minutes. It comes down to the player making that commitment, and in the summer he made that commitment.”
Carson’s hard work was evident last weekend. Sunday’s heavy workload came during his third game in three nights, with travel required after each contest. It’s an unheard of schedule for an NHL player, but things are a little different in the minors.
“We do that quite often, so I was a little tired, but the adrenaline took over,” said Carson. “It’s pretty easy to get up for your first NHL game.”
Carson’s transition was made easier by the fact that so many of his AHL teammates have also made the jump recently. Just days before he joined the Hurricanes, he was playing with Borer, Conboy and Justin Peters in Albany. Now, injuries have brought all of them to the big club for the time being.
”Sitting in the room before the game there was a time where it was just me, Borer, Conboy, Leighton and Peters and we were all in there kind of joking around,” said Carson. “That helped me kind of ease the nerves.”
With four defensemen expected to remain on the injury report, Carson will most likely have to play numerous minutes again during the Hurricanes’ next game on Thursday in Philadelphia.
Here’s hoping that game is as uneventful as his first.