Daniel Carr has been a true “diamond in the rough” find for the Montreal Canadiens. Since being signed in 2014, Carr has proved to be a dynamic AHL sniper and deserves a regular spot in the NHL lineup. No matter the level, he plays the game with energy and pace and possesses a lethal shot. Despite playing well and creating chances for himself and his teammates, Carr has seemingly become the odd man out in the lineup more often than not .
To start this season, due to Jacob de la Rose winning one of the few available spots in the Habs lineup, Carr was assigned to the Laval Rocket and immediately proved that he should instead be on the NHL roster. Carr missed the opening weekend of Rocket games due to the passing of this father, but in his first game back he notched a hat trick and the overtime winner in a 8-7 game against Binghamton.
In his 20 games for the Rocket this year, Carr was held without a shot only twice and his longest streak without any sort of point lasted all of two games. In short, he was a driving force in an offence that was ranked at the top of the AHL at the start the year. While Chris Terry shouldered a major load for the Rocket by the end of the year, Carr was on pace to be the highest scoring forward on the team at the time of his recall.
Despite less time on ice per game, Carr was producing more primary points than anyone else on the Rocket roster when he was recalled. Not a bad feat considering how prolific a scorer Terry and Adam Cracknell were this season. It was rather surprising that Nicolas Deslauriers was given the first recall over Carr, despite showing far less in the AHL. In fact, Deslauriers’ play in the NHL left much to be desired until Carr was recalled and gave the Canadiens’ fourth line a true shot in the arm in terms of offence. Yet, Carr still ended up the odd man out despite performing better than his peers in most categories.
It’s worth noting that Deslauriers’ increased production came with a significantly inflated shooting percentage compared to his career average, and that his production isn’t likely to last. So, it’s a rather self-inflicted wound that a team who couldn’t score didn’t offer the same opportunity to a player like Carr.
Carr’s strength lies in the simplicity in his game. He likes to get pucks on the net and does so fairly well. He’s has a laser-guided wrist shot that he uses to great effect, especially as a one timer. Not only that, Carr has an uncanny knack for scoring backhand goals from almost non-existent angles with regularity that makes him a serious threat around the net. Even at full speed he uses his slick hands to confuse goalies before taking his shot, making him a fantastic multi-faceted player in the offensive zone.
He’s able to find space in those dangerous areas and create scoring chances for his team. Many fans have likened him to a “Gallagher-Lite” which, given his propensity to work in the dirty areas, is rather apt.
As the shot chart above shows, Carr loves getting to the front of the net with the puck and getting shots off. That nose for the dirty areas is why we should see him moving up the lineup if he stays in Montreal. He can handle the battles in front of the net while players like Drouin and Galchenyuk operate on the perimeter. This isn’t to say he should be playing top-line minutes, but Carr has more than earned an extended look with better linemates in future seasons.
On the advanced numbers side of things, Carr was one of the players who didn’t help his case much. That also comes with being heavily tethered to fourth-line caliber players. In fact, he spent the majority of his season tied to the combination of Deslauriers and Byron Froese who, until Carr arrived, were drowning in terms of possession. While Carr is a very good player, he couldn’t manage to get that line above water despite increasing their level of play, and that’s not really his fault in the end. While Froese is a fine NHL player, he’s not cut out for regular NHL ice time. As for Deslauriers, as we covered in his season review, he needed a large boost of luck to be a slightly above average fourth-line player this year. He’s capable of being better, it’s just a matter of whether or not the Canadiens will trust him with an expanded role.
Carr has been a fantastic offensive asset in the limited ice time he’s had over the course of his professional career, and with the Canadiens looking to improve their offence they should look in-house before overspending in free agency. He’s still a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and, coming off a deal where he made $725,000 a year, will likely come in around one million dollars. That price is a steal for someone who put up 16 points playing almost entirely fourth-line minutes last year and has shown a tenacity to drive into the dirty areas to provide goals for his team.
Players like Carr are invaluable for a team who’s looking for cheap scoring depth and when placed in the right situations can reach a new level. It’s worked wonders in Pittsburgh in previous seasons and even the recent success of the Vegas Golden Knights should show that giving a chance to players like Daniel Carr can lead to major returns. All it takes is a coaching staff that’s willing to give him a chance in the lineup, and if that doesn’t happen in Montreal, Carr could very well make another team very happy next season.
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