William Carrier, from the same hometown as Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers, would no doubt one day like to be where No. 44 is in his hockey career.
Deslauriers recently re-signed with Buffalo while Carrier is striving to improve his game and make the jump from Rochester, where he posted 30 points in 56 games last season. A quick add-on to the thought about William's hometown, the most well-known or successful NHL player from LaSalle, Quebec would likely be Jacques Lemaire. He finished his career with 835 points in 853 career games.
Carrier is a second-round pick whom the Blues selected in 2013 and was acquired by Buffalo in the deal that saw Ryan Miller and Steve Ott head to St. Louis in February 2014. Carrier has played two seasons with the Amerks and has amassed 20 goals and 51 points in 119 games played.
Most importantly, the goal production improvement was there last season, his second as a pro. William scored 13 times, which is six better than his rookie season output. At 21 years of age, there is time and room for the 6-foot-1, 194-pound left wing to grow.
During this year’s development camp, I asked William what steps he has taken to become a more consistent pro player.
“The skills and speed are all there,” he said. “It’s the confidence.”
William referenced a good finish to last season in the AHL, which helped him build on the belief that he belongs with the big boys and can continue to grow his game at the NHL level.
Playing better in the defensive zone is something Carrier and all players strive for. In William's mind anyway, he feels he has a pretty good grasp off his two seasons in Rochester of what it takes to be a plus player.
“Last year I had a good year trying to be a plus-one guy,” he said. “Just trying to be a two-way player and a plus-player per game.”
Next for the young players or any newcomers to Buffalo is to understand what is “Sabres Hockey” in 2016-17. Then the player has to figure out how or where he can fit in with that plan. William says he fits right in with what Tim Murray and Dan Byslma’s staff are asking of their players.
Carrier says his game suits what the Sabres want.
“I think they’re trying to build a fast team, a big and fast team. That’s how I play. I bring the puck to the net, play hard and physical,” he said.
Many players who play their first couple seasons out of junior and into the AHL or NHL realize that if you are shy about communicating on and off the ice, you could have a short shelf life in pro hockey.
Carrier says, “The game is so fast coming out of junior, guys are just flying. You have to talk. I love when I get the puck and guys playing with me on the ice are talking, buys you half a second.”
If you have ever had a chance to see an NHL game at ice level, you will know yourself how important that half a second is, and hence how important the aspect of communication is to any team’s success.
So in his own words, Carrier says he has the speed, has the skill – and I can tell you he has a pro hockey player’s physique and is ready to crash and bang. So what might set him apart from others trying to perhaps be a dark horse and make the Sabres out of this seasons training camp in early fall?
In his own words Carrier says, “If I play at 100 percent, I can play in the NHL, so I am trying to put more muscle and speed into my game.”
Carrier credits his coach in Rochester last season Randy Cunneyworth, now back with the Sabres player development staff, for helping him build his self confidence in his game. After practice, William says Cunneyworth spent an extra 15-20 minutes with him every day working on little things, little plays that make you a better player.
Now it’s up to Carrier to make those extra minutes count as Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma watch with interest every single time he is on the ice.