During 2019-20 Carter Savoie was so utterly dominant in the Alberta Junior Hockey League that it often seemed unfair and silly. As with all prospects who are entering the draft from the lower tiers of junior hockey, it is difficult to know how he compares to peers from more prominent leagues. Was his talent a product of his environment or will he continue to shine when he takes his talents to Denver, Colorado?
Birthplace: St. Albert, Alberta
Date of birth: January 23, 2002
Weight: 181 lbs.
Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)
Savoie may not be as highly touted as his younger brother, but this does not mean that I’m calling him a slouch. Or perhaps that is exactly what I’m doing?
Savoie is as exciting to watch as I imagine he is frustrating to coach. His puck skills are already at a pro level, he has a strong lower body, his shot is excellent and his release is quick. When he decides to turn it on, he can snipe it home from just about anywhere.
The problem is that he knows this all too well. He knows that he is above and beyond more talented than the rest of the players in the AJHL, meaning that he only shows up when he wants to. At least, this is how it feels when you’re watching him. Savoie has a tendency to look lazy, uninspired and completely vanish from games. Then suddenly, he dekes the puck past the defender, lures down the goalie and voilà:
This looks easy because it is easy for Carter.
This pattern continues throughout his games. He can be invisible for 58 minutes and still end up scoring a hat-trick to win Sherwood Park the game. Is this encouraging or annoying? In the end, it comes down to what you want out of a hockey player. If you can’t have both, would you rather have effort or skill?
Scouts aren’t the only ones who are confused by Savoie’s ups and downs. Both of his coaches and General Manager Kyle Chase talked about it when The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler went to Sherwood Park earlier this year.
“It’s an art. The puck follows him. There’s times where you’re like ‘is Savy playing?’ and then he scores a goal where it’s like ‘What is going on?’ There’s times, I’m not even kidding, where I’ve had to turn the other way in games and start laughing. He scores a goal and I don’t want anyone seeing me giggling. You don’t want to embarrass anybody.”
It’s probable that we have already seen the most dominant version of Savoie we will ever see. He may be as skilled as they come when the puck is in his possession, but his lack of ability in almost all other aspects of the game is severely weighing him down.
Playing for a well-functioning team in the NCAA will be an interesting test of Savoie’s mental capacity and his willingness to train and develop. He is already a good skater, but in no way as elite as several others in the draft class. Could he increase his skating pace and thus further round out his offensive game? Can he all of a sudden sprinkle some effort into his defensive game? Can he stop collecting excessive penalty minutes?
In the last decade, six players from the AJHL have been drafted within the first three rounds. Colton Parayko and Cale Makar have become studs, while the jury is still out on the other four. Before the Boston Bruins drafted Quinn Olson 92nd overall last year, an AJHL forward hadn’t been selected with a Top 100 pick since Joe Colborne went 16th overall in 2008. Consensus rankings for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft tells us that we won’t have to wait nearly as long for the next one.
Elite Prospects: #91
Future Considerations: #60
McKeen’s Hockey: #32
NHL Central Scouting: #50 (North American skaters)
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #32
The thing right now, highlighted by rankings varying from 32 to 91, is that nobody knows what to make of the older Savoie brother. He has been able to live off pure skill and trickery throughout his whole youth. He’s like that kid in school who got straight A’s without even studying for the tests. How does he tackle adversity once it finally occurs? Some players rise to the occasion as the opposition becomes more difficult, while others just don’t. In the NCAA, there will be higher stakes than in the AJHL.
It is quite possible that Savoie never makes it to the NHL. But the further we get into the draft, the more he’s worth the risk. He has that enticing home-run potential about him — even if the chances of him turning out are slim.
You will never be able to convert a well-rounded, responsible Average Joe into a dazzling offensive genius. There is at least a bigger chance that you could teach some well-rounded, responsible manners to a puck wizard like Savoie.
His future is now in the hands of the Denver Pioneers and their young head coach David Carle. Let’s cross our fingers that it will be a perfect match.