Chicago Wolves' Carr looking for another crack at the NHL

One more chance. That's all Daniel Carr wants.

Give him one more shot to play in the NHL and the MVP of the American Hockey League believes he'll make that general manager more than happy.

"Obviously nobody wants to be in the American League," said Carr, who has 81 goals in 191 career AHL games, 30 of which came for the Chicago Wolves this season. "It's tough when I've learned I know I can play in the NHL. I feel like the majority of this year I've done that.

"At the same time this has been a good year for me. I got to play a ton with good players and I've had a lot of fun playing hockey."

Carr, who missed the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs with an injury, is a big reason the Wolves eliminated Iowa in the second round and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2008. They were tied at a game apiece in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 3 late Wednesday at San Diego.

So who is Daniel Carr and what might he bring to an NHL team in 2019-20? Let's find out.

Dad was everything

The second son of Jim and Marjorie Carr, Daniel was "born with a hockey stick in my hand." A huge hockey enthusiast, Jim won two national championships for the University of Alberta in 1977 and '78.

He coached Daniel's teams until the junior level, often getting his boys up at 5 a.m. for practice.

"Our dad did everything for us," Daniel told the Edmonton Journal at a celebration of Jim's life on Oct. 10, 2017.

Jim passed away at 65 from a short, undisclosed illness - a subject Daniel politely declined to talk about it. The Wolves forward was, however, more than happy to discuss how blessed he was to be coached by his dad - and to receive tips in a roundabout way from a Canadian coaching legend.

"He's a guy named Clare Drake," said Carr, who is from a small town just outside of Edmonton. "He ran the hockey program at the University of Alberta forever. My dad played for him and they were friends until both of them passed away. (Drake died at 89 on May 13, 2018).

"We basically had a Canadian coaching legend consulting for our pee-wee team. I was from a small town of like 15,000 people and every year we'd win Provincials. So it was a lot of fun and a cool way to grow up as a kid."

Tough time sticking

Daniel Carr played four seasons at Union College and was part of the team's first and only national championship in 2014. Soon after, Carr, while in the hospital for shoulder surgery, signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

He admitted he didn't know how difficult pro hockey would be at first, but he soon righted the ship and finished with 24 goals for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.

The next season began a three-year, roller-coaster ride that helped shape Carr into the player - and the person - he is today.

• In 2015-16, the Canadiens called Carr up, and he scored two minutes and 44 seconds into his NHL debut, a 3-2 loss at Carolina on Dec. 5. He'd score four more times in the next 18 games, but he missed eight weeks after suffering an injury at Columbus on Jan. 25.

"It was tough," Carr said, "because I sitting there watching all these guys that I had worked so hard to get ahead of on the depth chart get every opportunity because I was hurt."

• The next season Carr made Montreal out of training camp, but he struggled with constantly being in and out of the lineup.

"I didn't do a very good job of being a pro," Carr said. "(Coach Michael Therrien) actually liked me and I just wasn't mature enough to figure it out and know that I've got to roll with the waves and work at it when things aren't going well."

Montreal started sending Carr down to their AHL affiliate for weekend home games. Then he had emergency elbow surgery for an infection. Then he didn't play well upon his return. Then came a concussion.

In short, it was a nightmare of a season.

"It was the worst year of hockey ever," Carr said.

• The 2017-18 campaign began with the death of Carr's father. He left training camp just before the season began and was assigned to the minors after clearing waivers.

That's when Laval coach Sylvain Lefebvre, now an assistant with San Diego, stepped in and helped Carr get his career back on track.

"Obviously when you have to mourn a person that is so close to you, it's never easy," said Lefebvre, who coached Carr for four seasons with Montreal's AHL affiliates. "He came back pretty quick. He knew that hockey was his life … and is still his life. He's doing what his dad always wanted him to do. He's doing it for his dad."

Carr scored 11 goals in 20 games for Laval, then was called up when Jonathan Drouin was injured. He had 3 goals and 7 assists in his first nine games and finished with 6 goals and 10 assists in 38 games.

"I was putting up numbers and making plays," Carr said. "And there were times where you're the odd man out in the lineup, but I had learned from the year before that you can't just sit there and pout. You've got to work at it. So when I got back in, I'd play well."

This season and beyond

After Montreal and Carr couldn't come to terms last off-season, the winger signed a one-year deal with Vegas. And from the outset, he was an absolute machine for the Wolves, scoring 4 goals at Milwaukee on Nov. 7 and finishing with 30 scores and 41 assists in just 52 games.

He suffered a brutal injury on March 5, when San Antonio's Jordan Nolan delivered a vicious forearm to the head. It cost him the rest of the regular season and the first-round series against Grand Rapids, but the 27-year-old has returned with a vengeance.

"He's that player that's like a dog on a bone," Lefebvre said. "He loves to score goals."

Carr did just that in Game 1 against the San Diego Gulls on Friday, giving the Wolves a 2-1 lead in the second period by lifting a shot over goalie Jeff Glass' right shoulder from perhaps five feet away. It was Carr's third goal of the postseason in his seventh appearance.

Carr's tenacious, competitive fire is on display every night. He's nearly impossible to knock off the puck and constantly wins battles against the boards.

He did play six games with the Golden Knights this season, scoring his only goal at the United Center during an 8-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Nov. 27.

"The games he came up and played with us, he played real well," said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, who was at the Allstate Arena for Games 1 and 2 against San Diego. "But we have a pretty good roster and there just wasn't room for him.

"We liked him, he did a good job for us, and it's unfortunate for him that he didn't get more opportunity and more games."

Now, if the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent could just get one more crack at the big time.

"He's a guy that can help a team," Lefebvre said. "I'm sure if Vegas was still in the playoffs and they needed a player, he'd be one of the first guys in the conversation.

"You know that he's going to give his heart and soul to his team. He's one of those guys that any team wishes they had."

Daniel Carr stats

Season, team GP G A Pts.

2014-15, Hamilton 76 24 15 39

2015-16, Montreal 23 6 3 9

2015-16, St. John's 24 10 11 21

2016-17, Montreal 33 2 7 9

2016-17, St. John's 19 6 5 11

2017-18, Montreal 38 6 10 16

2017-18, Laval 20 11 8 19

2018-19, Vegas 6 1 0 1

2018-19, WOLVES 52 30 41 71

NHL totals 100 15 20 35

AHL totals 191 81 80 161

Note: Hamilton, St. John's and Laval were Montreal's AHL affiliates

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