Jan 1, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
Sam Carrick knows this training camp is different.
The San Diego Gulls captain is participating in the Anaheim Ducks training camp at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine, California. He’s one of 41 players – and 18 Gulls – looking to make an impression and start the season with the National Hockey League club.
This year’s camp is different than others. The NHL will not hold any exhibition games, putting extra emphasis on team practices and scrimmages. It’s a unique challenge – in a different season – that puts a daily spotlight on the players.
“Without having those exhibition games, it’s going to come down to proving yourself in practice and in these scrimmages – just doing whatever it takes to get noticed,” Carrick explained following the first of those team scrimmages. “Working hard out there and even finishing checks and creating a game-like situation. There’s really not much we can do going into the regular season. We’re going to have to rely on each other to get ourselves ready.”
Carrick comes into this camp after earning his longest NHL stint with the Ducks. During the 2019-20 season, the Markham, Ontario native skated in nine games with Anaheim, recording his first NHL shorthanded goal. He also added an assist, matching a career-high in all offensive categories at the NHL level.
“It always helps when there’s some familiarity within the room and even within the coaching staff,” Carrick said when discussing his time with the Ducks. “It’s definitely nice to have that bit of experience from last year, being up a little bit. I feel like I did pretty well when I was up so that helps with the confidence.”
He completed yet another stellar season in the American Hockey League, earning 23-20=43 points with a +27 rating and 40 PIM last season with the Gulls. He became the first Gull to score 20 goals in back-to-back seasons. Carrick also led San Diego in scoring, goals, plus/minus, shorthanded goals (4), shots (144), co-led in power-play goals (5), and ranked second in assists (29).
His +27 rating also led all AHL forwards and ranked second among all skaters.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you did last year, this year is a whole new year,” Carrick explained. “This team is trying to get back to where they were as an organization. There’s going to be a lot of competition and it’s going to be a kind of ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of attitude.”
Carrick used the extended offseason to mend lingering injuries before diving in to a full training program.
“In a typical year, the offseason seemed to fly by pretty quickly, especially if you go on a deeper playoff run,” the Gulls’ captain said. “Once I was all healed up and getting towards the middle of the summer, I definitely put a focus on my skating, my skillset, stickhandling, that kind of stuff and just working on finishing scoring goals. At the end of the day, that’s what you want to do – the goal is to score goals. Just working on little things like that, different ways that I can create more offense. At this point that’s something I’m really trying to do.”
As 2020 fades into the rearview mirror – and Carrick prepares for a different season under unique circumstances – he feels lucky to make some memories with his young family.
“Obviously, 2020 was a really tough year for a lot of people, but I think I’ll look back and remember it as a time that I got to spend a lot of quality time with my little guy at such an important age too,” he said. “I was there for his first birthday, he’s about a year and a half now. Just being around him and growing our bond together, it was amazing. It’s something I’ll cherish and something I’m very thankful for. At the same time. I’m ready for things to get back to normal here and get back to what we do best.”