Alexandre Carrier wanted to make an impression right away.
In just his second game at the AHL level, the Albany Devils’ rookie forward fought established tough guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The next night in Syracuse, a hit on the Crunch’s points leader Jonathan Marchessault drew the ire of former Devil Matthew Corrente, who then introduced himself to Carrier with closed fists instead of a handshake.
Carrier started this season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, was later signed by Albany to an AHL contract and then assigned to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. He was recalled to Albany in mid-December, and has appeared in seven games with the Devils.
Now, he’ll do whatever he can to stick with the club.
“I need to show to the coaching staff and the organization what I can bring to this team,” Carrier said. “Toughness is a good part of the hockey player I am. So the second game against Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, he was running around and asking everybody, so I had to kind of stick up for the team and take it, so he would kind of calm down and all the skill guys could just do their jobs. It was to show that we’re not going to get intimidated by anybody in this league, and to show my teammates that I can do that kind of job.”
It remains to be seen whether he will play during Albany’s three-in-three weekend, beginning tonight at the Times Union Center against Hershey at 7. Albany hosts Bridgeport on Saturday at 5 p.m., and plays at Springfield on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Carrier played junior hockey for three seasons with Val-d’Or Foreurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, then played 10 games in his first pro season in Austria for Salzburg EC in the 2011-12 season.
The last three seasons, he attended the Albany Devils’ AHL training camp on an invite, but never caught the eyes of the coaches enough to earn a contract.
Instead, he played 69 games in the ECHL and two in the CHL. In those ECHL games, he had a goal, five assists, 118 penalty minutes and a minus-21 rating. This season, he played 10 games with the Peoria Rivermen in the SPHL, finishing with two goals and two assists, 51 penalty minutes and a plus-1. He played six games with Orlando, totaling two penalty minutes and a minus-3. Then came his seven games with Albany.
“It was difficult, at the beginning, to go from the AHL camp in Albany to Peoria in the SPHL,” he said. “In the beginning, it was a tough bounce, but I took it on the good side and worked on my game, worked on myself in the gym and put in a lot of effort so it could work this year.”
At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Carrier is the second-largest forward on the Albany roster, behind only Ben Thomson, who is 6-3, 215.
“What I liked about him is for a big guy — I think he fought at camp, but I didn’t really know how tough he was — for a big guy, I thought he got around the ice pretty well and had pretty good composure with the puck,” said Albany Devils coach Rick Kowalsky.
“He had a great camp with us, just some highlight-reel hits, and that composure with the puck and ability to make plays on the breakout. I think now that we’ve seen a little bit of his toughness — he came up here and played well, fought two tough guys right away, made some big hits and caused some problems on the forecheck. I certainly think there’s potentially a future for him here, and I’ve liked the way he’s played.”
Kowalsky said he had to pull Carrier aside a few days ago and remind him this was an opportunity to earn more AHL ice time, not just a recall for numbers that had to end once injured and ill players recovered.
To that end, Carrier has been listening to Devils veterans to learn how to carve out a career in the AHL.
“Rod Pelley has been a great help for me,” Carrier said. “When we were on the Christmas break, we drove back to Montreal together, and we talked a lot. He kind of said to me what I need to do and what I need to keep doing to make sure I was still be at this level. Cam Janssen, the same thing, because we’re kind of the same type of player. He’s kind of teaching me what path to keep going, like fighting-wise, toughness-wise.”
Carrier said the biggest difference in the SPHL was how players knew far less about the systems in use. Now that he’s with Albany, more focus is thrown on systems and that focused instruction should help him.
Kowalsky said the 23-year-old is like a sponge in practice, though, and is adjusting well to the team and league.
“He’s bounced around and played in some different spots, so I think, getting some structure and getting used to it, under his belt . . . Because he’s certainly willing to learn and is receptive when we make adjustments or tell him he has to be here instead of here,” Kowalsky said. “A kid that big at that age and that tough, who shoots the puck well, handles the puck well, and he can skate — you teach him the game a little bit and use him in that role and play quality minutes, he’s certainly a benefit to have.”