By Jason Karnosky
There are a lot of different compliments you can place on Admirals defenseman Alexandre Carrier.
He’s a workhorse blue liner, a superior transition game specialist, an ultra-smooth skater, a power-play quarterback, a defender that slows the game down and who stifles opposing offenses, a team leader, and a terrific teammate on and off the ice.
But this season the fourth-year professional added to his already distinguished resume by reaching a pair of career records. On an Admirals franchise that featured the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Mattias Ekholm, Dan Hamhuis, Cody Franson and Greg Zanon on its blue line, Carrier stands alone as the organization’s all-time American Hockey League (AHL) leader in both assists and points as a defenseman.
“At the time I didn’t have any idea I set those records, but they are pretty cool records to have,” said Carrier, who ranks tied for fifth among AHL defenseman in points with 17. “When I came here I was just a 19 or 20-year-old rookie who got to play with a great group of leaders. I’ve learned a lot from then on through my fourth year as a professional. The organization and my teammates helped me a lot along the way in achieving this.”
Having already nabbed the assists record in an October 18, 2019 shootout loss to Colorado, Carrier set the points record one month later in his team’s 4-2 win at Belleville (it was also a game where he hit the 100-assist mark as a professional). The accomplishment came during a stretch of games where his team reaching unprecedented heights.
“Alex setting records this year attests to the intelligence of his game,” Admirals coach Karl Taylor said. “He’s a very smart player who finds ways to get pucks through and finds ways to create offense. He doesn’t chase offense, but instead waits for things to occur, and then adds his own individual talent to it to bring it to another level. His vision, work on the power play, and his patience within the game allows offense to come to him.”
Carrier recorded a pair of assists in that November 16, 2019 win over the Senators, which marked Milwaukee’s seventh straight win at the time. The Admirals would go on to win six more games in a row to set a franchise record by winning 13 straight games. The streak came to an end against Texas on December 3, 2019, but not after Milwaukee, now 19-4-2-2 (good for 42 points), vaulted into first place overall in the AHL.
“It’s been so much fun to be on a roll like this,” said Carrier, whose team stands four points ahead of the Tucson Roadrunners on top of the AHL standings. “Every day you come into the rink to play hockey and to work, but when your team is getting so many wins like this it makes it is a lot easier.”
Carrier scored a critical goal when his team’s record-breaking streak was most in jeopardy. Riding a seven-game winning streak at the time, Milwaukee faced a November 19, 2019 road contest against their nemesis Iowa—a team that had beat the Admirals eight straight times in Des Moines dating back to November 28, 2017. Milwaukee led 3-2 entering the third period, but surrendered four straight goals to the Wild to trail 5-3 with less than two minutes remaining. However, the Admirals would go on to win the game in a shootout to record their eighth consecutive “W”.
“It would have been easy for us to just let that game slip away, but our group stayed with it and we got two goals with the goalie out of the net which is unheard of,” Taylor said. “The last goal, the game tier, Alex had a great shot on net after a great entry by Daniel Carr. That allowed us to force overtime and then get that end result in a shootout. It was just a game in November, but it was a bigger game in our eyes because we haven’t had a lot of success in that building.”
Big games and big plays have been a staple for Carrier ever since he first joined the Admirals for the 2016-17 season. Carrier, Nashville’s fourth-round selection in the 2015 entry draft, had a terrific rookie campaign, scoring six goals and 39 points in 72 games. It was good enough to lead his team’s defensemen in scoring and finish sixth overall in points.
During that first professional season, Carrier earned his first stint in the National Hockey League. The defenseman dressed for two contests in a Predators sweater, debuting on January 17, 2017 against Vancouver and then helping Nashville defeat the Calgary Flames 4-3 two nights later.
“When I first got drafted back in 2015 I thought that Nashville was a great organization to be a part of as a defenseman,” Carrier said. “For defensemen often it takes a couple of seasons to develop into a next level player, and I’m all about that process. I’m excited to get back to Nashville soon and hopefully when I get another chance, I’ll take it.”
Carrier continued his overall development during the next two seasons, but his point total took a slight dip. The 6-foot-0, 180-pound defender scored four goals and 28 points in 2017-18, but that year Milwaukee failed to reach the Calder Cup playoffs.
Carrier responded with another big step forward in 2018-19 during his first year playing under coach Karl Taylor. Carrier finished with five goals and added 32 assists for a 37-point campaign, and picked up points in nine of his team’s last 11 games as the Admirals used a 14-game point streak to end the season and go from outside the playoff picture to gaining home ice for the first round of the postseason.
“It’s really fun to play under coach Taylor as he really lets us go on offense,” said Carrier, who ranks tied for third on his team with 13 assists. “He wants our defensemen to join the rush and he wants us to be active. That really helps us and it’s a big part of my game.”
Now a 23-year-old fourth year player in the AHL, Carrier’s leadership was rewarded with assistant captain “A” on his sweater for the 2019-20 season. Through 27 games this year Carrier has four goals and 17 points, which ranks fifth on his team in scoring.
“(Alex) is one of our leaders, has one of our team’s assistant captain roles, and is a guy that his teammates look up to,” Admirals forward Colin Blackwell said. “He’s an awesome guy on the ice, and it’s been great to see him grow during my two years here.”
During his team’s 13-game winning streak, Carrier picked up points in nine of the games, and three times racked up two-point efforts. His most recent two-point performance came in the Admirals 6-3 win over Manitoba on home ice just before the Thanksgiving holiday. In the win, Carrier got credited for what is likely the flukiest goal of his career, as the blue liner last touched the puck before the Moose scored on their own net during a delayed penalty against the Admirals.
With the defenseman on pace for his most productive season ever (Carrier projects to finish with 11 goals and 48 points in 2019-20), the next step in his career would be to return to the NHL on a part-time or full-time basis. His teammates believe the Quebec City, Quebec native is ready to play at the next level.
“Alex is just so smart and just so smooth, and he kind of slows the game down on the ice,” said Blackwell, who has played in six NHL games with Nashville. “He gets a lot of credit for his offense and his puck moving abilities, but he is so underrated from defensive standpoint. He kills plays for the other team’s offense and that creates offense for us going the other way.”
Acquired late in 2018-19, veteran forward Cole Schneider has been nothing but impressed with his new Admirals teammate.
“(Alex) is a heck of a player,” said Schneider, who has played in six NHL games with Buffalo. “You don’t really notice him ever doing anything wrong and he always seems to find his way onto the scoresheet. He’s solid defensively, but is also really good at jumping up into the play. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team, and he logs the most minutes on our team for a reason. He’s going to be a good player for a while.”
Carrier and league leading Milwaukee return home on Friday to face rival Chicago. In the game the Admirals will be searching for their eighth straight win at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.