During the mess that was Monday’s brawl-filled Capitals-Bruins game, one play jumped out at me.

With the Caps on the powerplay, defenseman Connor Carrick got the puck. He was the lone guy on the point — with Mikhail Grabovski at his right and Troy Brouwer to his left. Bruins veteran Daniel Paille went after Carrick, thinking he could cause the youngster, playing one of the hardest positions in hockey– powerplay quarterback, to cough up the puck or surrender the blue line.

What would you expect from a 19-year-old on this play? Keeping the puck in the zone and dumping it in would be satisfactory, but that’s not what Carrick did. Instead, he faked an easy pass to Brouwer and then backhanded the puck to Grabovski. No one on the ice except Carrick seemed to expect that play. He kept the Bruins in their own end with a simple, smart pass– showing NHL-quality poise in the process.

Little, unspectacular plays like that can reveal the confidence and competence coaches expect from players at the NHL level. For Carrick it seems that development has come earlier than anybody expected. Coming into the camp, the question was whether Carrick would be ready to play with the seasoned pros in the AHL. Now it seems like the more apt question is if he could hold his own in the NHL. There’s little reason to think he wouldn’t, unless you’re evaluating players solely based on their age and draft pedigree.

Carrick did fumble the puck while on the power play once, but his recovery was just outstanding. He didn’t panic, he didn’t hook or trip his opponent, Jarome Iginla. He just denied him the opportunity to score:

“He’s similar to Tom Wilson. You’re evaluating, and he looks like he’s moved beyond [juniors],” Caps coach Adam Oates told Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes. “Not that he wouldn’t have a great year in junior — of course he would — but we think he’s ready for the next level.”

Carrick, who did not make Team USA for last years’ World Juniors, has been steadily improving since he was drafted. With speed and passing ability, Carrick is creating offensive chances at all levels he’s played at, both by feeding his forwards and jumping in on the play himself. He is a quarterback on the ice, letting his forwards run their routes and then hitting them with the tape-to-tape passes. With a shot much harder than you’d expect from a 5-foot-11, 185-pound blueliner, he has the ability to finish plays on his own as well.

So, realistically, is there a chance we see Carrick in the Caps jersey this regular season?

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  • He kind of reminds me of Robert Lang with how he skates. He looks very methodical in his decision making, minimizes how hard he has to stride. You can tell he’s a very smart player. The Caps found another good one in the later rounds. I’m really excited to see how he continues to develop this season.

  • Pat Magee

    Perhaps he is what we wanted Orlov to become?