The rookie squadron for the Milwaukee Admirals during the 2016-17 season was one that had plenty of interest going in. Anthony Richard made a pro debut with the Admirals during their 2016 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs run. Jack Dougherty made a pro debut even before those playoffs started. And both Alex Carrier and Justin Kirkland had yet to get in a game. Jonas Gunnarsson wasn’t even signed yet but showed well at Nashville’s Rookie Development Camp.
I would say that along the first few months most of the Admirals rookie core had a slow start. Kirkland and Richard, who arrived with great scoring prowess out of their junior careers, were clearly going through the motions. Gunnarsson in net was also adjusting to the differences in playing styles that come with the leap from European style hockey to the North American style game. By season’s end though, certainly looking at the likes of those two forwards and a defenseman in Dougherty, you could see the learning curve get adjusted and all rookies really start to come into their own.
There was one rookie though that impressed immediately and never really stopped. What Carrier did from the start of the season to the end was outstanding. And he is Admirals Roundtable’s Rookie of the Year for the 2016-17 Season.
When you think of how the Admirals started the season you have to think of a time with Matt Irwin on defense. It wasn’t a very long existence, mind you, but once he went away Carrier was thrust into his place. Carrier’s responsibilities and work load were increased to the point he was one of the first defensemen out on special teams. He didn’t buckle with the added load or pressure. He excelled with incredible maturity and poise. Carrier did not look or play like a 20-year old first-year pro this season. His numbers reflect that.
Carrier ended this season as not only the Admirals top rookie point scorer but also the lead scoring defenseman. Carrier produced 39 points (6 goals, 33 assists) from 72 games. It’s the first time since the 2009-10 season when the Admirals rookie leading scorer was a defenseman. Carrier’s season total also holds with it 2 game winning goals scored in overtime as well as work on the power-play that notched 3 power-play goals and 16 power-play assists. Only Admirals captain Trevor Smith with 17 power-play assists had more. Carrier quarterbacked the Admirals power-play and really took that responsibility the moment Irwin’s recall became permanent. The Admirals lost a veteran defenseman and began molding a new one who acted the part upon arrival to the AHL.
It should really have come as no surprise when Carrier was recalled by the Predators and logged his first career NHL games in his debut season as a pro. He earned it. And it was just a glimpse into the future for him. He is only going to be 21-years old entering his sophomore season when 2017-18 rolls in. He’s only getting better the more he gets to process games at the pro level.
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