Alexandre Carrier has plenty in common with the rest of his Nashville Predators teammates attending the club's Development Camp this week.
He, like everyone else, grew up with a dream of playing professional hockey. Being drafted by Nashville in June of 2015 was step one in that vision, and when he turned pro last season and started with the Predators' AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, he figured that'd be the only team he'd skate for in the near future.
Then Jan. 12 came. The Predators were on the road in Western Canada and they needed help on the blue line.
They wanted the 20-year-old from Quebec City.
After skating in two games for the Preds - his first coming in Vancouver on January 17, followed by another two nights later in Calgary - Carrier went back to Milwaukee to conclude the season in the minors.
But for a young defenseman, to be taken in the fourth round and see NHL ice less than two years later? That wasn't on the itinerary.
"I didn't expect that in my first year as a pro, to be able to do that, but I took that as a motivation," Carrier said after Tuesday's on-ice session at Development Camp. "I saw what it takes to be up there. I saw all their top D's that were playing, I saw how they were acting on the ice, off the ice, working hard, so I took that as an example when I came back in Milwaukee to work on my game. It was a big motivation for me."
Video: Carrier, Mismash, Vomacka and Trenin talk Dev Camp
"Maybe surprised isn't the right word, but I don't think people expected him to step in and play as well as he did," Predators Assistant Director of Player Development and former NHL All-Star defenseman Wade Redden said. "But it's a credit to him for what he did going back to last year at Development Camp and working since he got drafted two years ago. He's put the work in, he's wanted it and you can just see the way he is on the ice - the excitement and enthusiasm he has."
Indeed, Carrier is the only skater at this week's Development Camp with NHL regular-season experience to his name. While it sets him apart from anyone else on the roster, he'd be the last one to take anything for granted. If anything, the taste in January only makes him want it more.
"It's like a cake," Carrier explained. "When you're a kid, you only have a piece of the cake, but you want your mom to give you the whole cake. It's pretty much the same thing. You get there, you fly with the team, you know what it's like and you just want get back up there and stay there for good."
Someone else who'd like to have his piece of the confectionary delight and eat it with regularity is Frederick Gaudreau, a fellow Quebecer who was a teammate of Carrier's in Milwaukee for most of the season. Like Carrier, Gaudreau also got his first call to the NHL last season, and after both returned to Milwaukee in the wintertime, they sat down for dinner.
"We just had a supper together and we were like, 'We did it, we played in the National Hockey League, it's a dream come true, right?' We were on a cloud, but you got off the cloud and it's back to normal. Now you want to get there and stay there."
Both Carrier and Gaudreau joined the Preds once more as black aces during the postseason run, and when Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen went down with injuries, Gaudreau entered into the lineup. All he did was score three goals on the biggest stage in hockey.
Carrier couldn't help but think back to that dinner and how his friend was succeeding when it mattered most. As if he didn't already have enough incentive to get back in the Nashville lineup one day.
"I think he had the good mindset when he was with us," Carrier said of Gaudreau. "He was practicing hard and always getting ready. You never know what [can] happen, and I'm so happy for him."
A captain in juniors, Carrier has taken a leadership role once more after sporting the Gold helmet on Day One of Development Camp, an honor used to signify the top performer on a daily basis. The message is simple to the rest of the participants - here's what some hard work can do for you.
Carrier intends to get bigger and stronger this summer, while also finding a balance to keep his quickness intact. If his past is any indicator, Carrier won't have much trouble finding the ideal middle ground - and in turn, perhaps another call-up will soon follow.
"He's still a young guy, so he's going to get stronger and he's going to develop," Redden said of Carrier. "He's only going to get smarter with experience and obviously he's going to get better. He wants to do it, he works hard, he plays hard and that attitude is going to take him a long way."