NHL lockout keeps young talent down on the farm

The last couple of weeks haven’t gone exactly as Sam Carrick expected. He thought he would be playing for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL) this season. Instead, he was cut from the team during training camp.

“It was a little disappointing,” Carrick said. “You never go into a camp like that expecting to get cut. I think I proved I could play at that level so my hopes were high to stick there.”

It appears, however, the cut had nothing to do with his ability, but everything to do with the ongoing dispute between the NHL owners and the NHL Players Association.

According to Todd Reynolds, Carrick’s agent, the 20-year-old prospect player simply fell victim to the numbers game.

“There are too many players for the … spots that are available in the American Hockey League,” Reynolds said. “All the teams have many (more) players playing at a level lower than they might otherwise be.”

Players who would be on the ice for the NHL, are instead skating for their team’s AHL affiliate. Two-way contracts allow them to be transferred between the two leagues.

With no room for him on the Marlies’ roster, Carrick was sent to the tier below, the ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League) playing for the Idaho Steelheads. And, it turns out, there is a silver lining for Carrick.

“It’s kind of different than usual because there’s only three lines plus one, so you’re getting more ice time,” Carrick said.

In the ECHL, teams play with only three lines as opposed to the traditional four. That gives more ice time for Carrick so that he can develop his skills while being paid his AHL salary.

“I’ve never had anything handed to me and it’s been the same way going into pro,” Carrick said. “I’ve worked my way up from the bottom as far as ice time goes.”

If and when the NHL lockout ends and space on the Toronto Marlies becomes available, Carrick will be eligible to join the team. But right now, he’s just thinking about working as hard as he can no matter where he is.

“I’ve got to go out there and show them what I’ve got and impress the coaches,” Carrick said. “Hopefully I’ll move up the ladder (and) get back up to the Marlies.”