With Pirri gone, Carr excels on power play
CHICAGO—In the blink of an eye, the best player on the Wolves could be gone. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are always watching, ready to promote the Wolves’ leading talent for a chance in the NHL.
When turnover occurs, Wolves coach Rocky Thompson can be found fiddling with his top power-play unit, one of the key components to his team’s Central Division-best 50 points in 40 games. He is meticulous, often spending substantial time at practice working on scenarios involving rushes and setups where the Wolves have a man advantage. His power-play focus not only creates an offense-minded team—one that leads the AHL in goals scored—but it allows talent like Daniel Carr to flourish when opportunity arises.
“We practice special teams a lot,” Thompson said. “We have multiple guys that can play different spots. When somebody does get called up, another guy is ready to go in and execute the plan.”
Brandon Pirri held the team’s leading goal scorer title for the majority of the season before his call-up to Las Vegas on Dec. 14. He skated on the team’s top lines and played a pivotal role in the offensive flow of Thompson’s club. After Pirri’s promotion, Carr’s role expanded on the team’s top power-play unit.
While Carr played with Pirri, the offense didn’t run through him. He played a more peripheral piece as a scorer, setting up plays in front of the net. With Pirri’s departure, he moved to the left circle on the ice, a spot where key decisions--pass or shoot--are made. No longer was he fighting in front for rebounds and trying to gain position, he started to interact in a leadership role on the unit. In the short period of time Carr’s role evolved, his decisions have become calculated and second nature, he said.
“I’m just trying to read sticks, I’m trying to read what passing lanes are available,” Carr said. “If the defenseman has his stick to the inside, I know I can pass it down low to [a forward] in front of the net. Or as soon as the forward pushing down on me moves his stick to try and take my shot away, I know I could go behind my back to [my defenseman].”
On the season, Carr has been deadly on the power play. His nine power-play goals tied him for second in the AHL prior to Wednesday’s contest against the Grand Rapids Griffins. His all-around success is notable too. He leads all AHL players in plus-minus rating at plus-23 and has a small edge in total points at 45 prior to Wednesday’s game. Through it all, he remains humble about his accomplishments and the key role he now plays on the Wolves.
“It’s my first time [facilitating the power play] in professional hockey,” Carr said. “It’s taken me a little bit of an adjustment, but I think I’m getting better at it.”
Carr has experience at the NHL level as well. He played five games with the Golden Knights this season before Pirri’s December call-up and 94 total games with the Montreal Canadiens over the last three years. His time spent against better competition prepped his speed and instincts for greater opportunity. Now, his role is evolving, and thanks to Thompson’s dynamic power play, his success will be hard to overlook.
If the Golden Knights come knocking again for talent, Carr is the likely target. But if he departs, Thompson’s next-man-up attitude makes it likely a fitting candidate will step into his spot and allow the cycle of success to continue.