Just one season removed from registering 24 points in 61 games, Carolina Hurricanes prospect Brett Carson has exploded offensively for the Calgary Hitmen.
Finishing third among blueliners in scoring last year behind Jeff Schultz (WAS) and Dustin Kohn (NYI), Carson currently leads Calgary defensemen in goals with nine, and points with 34.
“I’ve got lots of power play time this year so that helps me contribute offensively,” Carson explained. “I think seven of my goals are on the power play. We have a gritty team and on the power play our guys are in front of the net and some of my shots are getting through and going in. That’s the main reason there.”
Carson hasn’t only showcased his offensive abilities on special teams though. The Hitmen are undefeated in seven games in the shootout in Western Hockey League play this season. Two wins came directly off the stick of Carson.
“You don’t really see too many defensemen shooting in shootouts,” said Carson, who is a perfect 2-2 this season.
While Carson’s shootout goals have both come as a result of a deke, Carson suggests we shouldn’t hold our breathe waiting for him to bring the crowd at the Saddledome with a Marek Malik-esque move.
“Once in a while I try it in practice but I wouldn’t try it in a game,” he said with a chuckle.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect about the Whitewood, Saskatchewan native is that he hasn’t sacrificed his defensive responsibilities in order to improve his offensive statistics.
In fact, Carson and his defensive partner Schultz have combined to be one of the top shut-down defensive pairings in the league. With Schultz, a first round selection of the Washington Capitals, standing at 6’6 and Carson at 6’5, it isn’t hard to see why the duo is a good combination.
The work that the two blueliners have done this season is something Carson takes pride in.
“It’s good, especially confidence-wise,” said the Hitmen captain. “We’re one of the best teams in terms of goals against. You know you can play against the top guys in this league and Schultzie and I have done a pretty good job shutting them down. We’re doing a really good job and hopefully we can keep it up.”
The ‘twin towers’ are so effective in turning away opposing forwards that the Hitmen are on pace to set a new franchise record for goals against, shattering the old mark of 182 set in 1999-00. Currently they are at 119 after 58 games.
Making this season, quite possibly his last of junior hockey, even more special for the former Moose Jaw Warrior is the fact that his captaincy was elected by his teammates, his peers. It is for this reason that Carson holds the ‘C’ close to his heart.
“It’s a great honor, especially the way we pick the captain,” admitted Carson. “It’s great to know you’re respected.”
The honor was something that Carson wasn’t quite expecting heading into the season, and may have been aided by the retiring of former heart-and-soul defenseman Darryl Yacboski.
Still, as a key returning member, Carson knew he’d be counted on to provide leadership on the blue line, but wasn’t aware the extent of the role.
“I knew coming in I’d be looked upon to be a leader but I didn’t know that I’d be the captain,” said Carson, whose Hitmen currently hold the best record in the WHL and are ranked fifth in the Canadian Hockey League. “I knew I was going to have to step up in the room though.”
Carson’s biggest goal as captain is to lead the club into a deep playoff run. After losing the Eastern Conference final to the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, Carson is hoping that the club can gain momentum for a deep playoff run.
“I think we’ve got the team to make a long run in playoffs and hopefully we get things going again,” he said.
Beyond that, Carson isn’t holding his breath in regards to what the future holds.
“Hopefully I’ll be in Carolina’s system somewhere,” he offered. “It’ll be good to play in the NHL but a couple years in the minors would be a good thing too.”
And a reunion with former Hitmen forward and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Andrew Ladd may not be too far away for Carson. Carson says Ladd’s enjoyment is encouraging.
“I’ve talked to (Ladd) on the computer a few times and he says he’s having a good time with it. When he’s up, he’s happy. When he’s down, he’s happy. He’s just happy to be playing hockey and that’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Carson has one major obstacle to overcome before he can think about joining Ladd, who is currently skating with the Lowell Lock Monsters, the Hurricanes American Hockey League affiliate.
Carson has yet to talk contract with the Hurricanes, but is optimistic.
“I haven’t really been in talks, but they told me at the start of the year that they’re going to send more guys back to play junior especially with the split AHL team. They thought it was a good situation for me to come back here.”
With the season he and his Hitmen are having, it looks like the Hurricanes made the right decision.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.