We continue our Top 20 countdown of the Calgary Flames top prospects with 2014 seventh round pick Austin Carroll.
Carroll was a bit of a controversial pick among Flames fans in 2014; he was almost 20 at the time and the thought process was “Hey, why not just draft a young kid as a project?” Now just over a year later, Carroll has a professional contract in his back pocket and may have quieted his critics somewhat with his final WHL season.
Carroll’s a unique property, in the sense that he’s both (a) a late bloomer and (b) a product of the Arizona minor hockey system. Yep, Arizona. A 1994 birthday, Carroll would’ve been in his formative hockey-watching years right as the Coyotes quietly became good, which no doubt influenced his choice to play the game of ice hockey.
After getting drafted by Chilliwack Bruins in 2009, Carroll soon migrated to the junior A BCHL and then leaped to the WHL in 2011-12 with the relocated Victoria Royals. The good thing about him is that he’s shown progression.
On one hand? Good! He’s getting better relative to the rest of the league. He generated a lot of points, too. And in his final season in Victoria, as an over-age player, he was very good. But there’s the rub – he was an over-age player.
Carroll is a big body, listed as 6’3″ and 215 pounds on the WHL website. He’s got decent mobility and hands, but his success in the WHL in terms of his counting stats derived from him being bigger and older than most of the other players in the league. And his style of play relies upon size; he’s a crash and bang winger with a decent shot who plays the right side. He’s good in the corners. He was big enough at the end of his WHL run to muscle opponents off of pucks and retain possession. And he’s big enough to muscle his way to the front of the net and skilled enough, relative to the WHL at least, to score from those situations.
The size aspect probably appeals to the Flames. The right-handed aspect probably appeals to the Flames. But at this point, he’ll need a year of professional hockey under his belt before anybody knows what he is at the AHL (or NHL) levels. That said, the success that he had in the WHL and the style of game that he plays lends itself more to bottom-six forward duties in the professional ranks, as everybody’s big in the pros.
It probably says a lot that looking for YouTube highlights of Carroll resulted in a bunch of fight videos, and this:
We’ve got the benefit of hindsight now. Anybody else the Flames would’ve have drafted in the 7th round in the 2014 Draft probably wouldn’t be turning pro this season. Anybody else would still be in junior. In Carroll, the Flames seemed to have taken a calculated risk: he’s got the size they like and he’s a right-handed shot, something they don’t have very much of in the organization. The next season of hockey will go a long way towards determining if Brad Treliving’s late-round gamble was a masterstroke or a minor misstep.