Matt Carey hasn’t been away from St. Lawrence University that long, but he’s already giving himself homework. These “assignments” include learning the pro hockey lifestyle and cultivating his game by watching a very good subject.
“I’ll shadow Jonathan Toews, watch how he plays,” said Carey on Sunday, three days after agreeing to terms on a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. “He’s a great player and arguably one of the best centers in the NHL. I’m just looking to learn how the pros live and I need to improve on my defensive game.”
Toews is certainly a good one to follow, especially for a center who wants to develop a more defensive-minded game. And the captain and the rest of the Blackhawks certainly can help Carey with the being-a-pro life. Carey has had a few skates with the Blackhawks, who haven’t had many practices lately. Now, while learning his “lessons,” Carey also waits to see when he’ll get into the lineup.
“I’m sure when it happens it’ll be an exciting experience, but it’s up to the staff when they put me out there,” said the 22-year-old Carey, who recorded 18 goals and 19 assists for St. Lawrence this past year, his freshman season. “I just need to get back in shape here.”
General manager Stan Bowman said Carey will be with the Blackhawks the rest of the regular season; Carey’s ineligible to play in the postseason since he signed after the trade deadline. But Bowman said Carey will get an opportunity at some point.
“We’ll give him a chance to show us what he can do and also learn from practicing with our guys and being around our coaching staff,” Bowman said. “He’s a real energetic kid, he’s excited to learn and he wants to get better. I think he’s got the potential because he’s got the skillset, offensively, and he plays a complete game. We like what he brings to the table.”
Coach Joel Quenneville has seen Carey skate these past few days and likes what he sees.
“He looks like a nice player,” said Quenneville, who wasn’t sure when Carey would play. “We’re going to see on that. We’ll see how he fits in, the timing of it. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play him in a game and then go from there.”
Carey’s education continues with the Blackhawks. He knows Drew LeBlanc, who signed with the Blackhawks late last season, played two games with the big club and is now playing for the Rockford IceHogs. Carey knows breaking into this lineup isn’t easy, but he’s all for developing with the organization, be it here or in Rockford.
“In the long term it’ll be tough to crack the lineup. But they do a great job developing players in the minors. That’s what I wanted to look at,” Carey said. “I’m looking forward to developing into a pro hockey player. They do a great job.”