In the 2013 NHL Draft, Chuck Fletcher and friends drafted four defensemen, more than they ever had before and haven’t done since. Gustav Olofsson is going to be getting reps on that third defensive pairing for Bruce this season, Dylan Labbé has 11 points in 84 AHL games, and Nolan De Jong was allowed to become an UFA this August.
Then there’s former alternate captain for the UMD Bulldogs, Carson Soucy. Picked at #137 in the fifth round, the Irma, Alberta-native is making the professional jump this season and breaks the top 20 in this year’s Top 25 Under 25.
Age: 23 (27. July, 1994)
Height/Weight: 6’4” (193 cm) / 212 lbs (96 kg)
Position/Shot: Defenseman / Left-handed
Contract Status: 1st year of 2-year ELC (RFA Summer 2019)
Last team: University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC), National Runner-Up 2017
There are a few things that come to mind when you think of Carson Soucy. After talking to him at Wild Development Camp this summer, the first is purely visual: his size. He’s a bruising defenseman with a frame comparable to Eric Staal (6’4”/208). Next to other blueliners on Boudreau’s line-up, he’s got an inch and almost 20 pounds on the next biggest body: Gustav Olofsson.
However, it’s become pretty clear that in today’s NHL, battering ram size isn’t the advantage it used to be when cracking a roster.
Production is where contracts are earned, and scoring is always at a premium (can’t wait for Dumba’s negotiations next summer). Soucy’s offensive numbers at UMD aren’t exactly ones that jump off the page. In four seasons and 147 regular season games, the Albertan generated just 47 points (0.32 PPG). His shooting percentage sat at just 3.9%.
Before you get too down on his offensive numbers, consider this: Gustav Olofsson had 8 points in 30 games for Colorado College and 42 in 120 appearances for Iowa (0.35PPG). As long as you can get a couple of apples and maintain possession, those third pairing minutes can come.
His biggest defensive stats aren’t all that impressive either. He blocked 53 shots for the Bulldogs in 2016-17, which was only 5th on the squad and tied for 105th with 7 other players in all of the NCAA. However, UMD also held the opposition to just 95 goals, a total only surpassed by the NCAA Champs, the Denver Pioneers.
When I talked to coach Lalonde at PDC, he praised Soucy for making a good first impression on Bruce Boudreau. He found the open ice, took good shots, and even got himself a goal. You can argue that because of his age that the offense shouldn’t be a big deal, but you can’t get down on a guy who does what he is supposed to do.
At the Traverse City Tournament, Lalonde gave Soucy one of the “A”s, probably due to experience and the same role he played with UMD. As he starts the year in Iowa, the coach known as “Newsy” expects him to come in and have an immediate impact as part of a larger leadership philosophy beyond captaincy:
“We probably won’t slap a letter on him [...] but we’d like him to be a leader by example.” Lalonde continued, “We want to lead as a corps, not necessarily just our two or three captains [...] we want him as a part of that corps, just by doing everything right.”
As for his future, it just all depends on how he can develop with Iowa within the assignments given to him over the course of the season. Whether that’s beefing up offensive play or playing a sound defensive game, he’s going to be a staple in the line-up:
“He’s going to play significant minutes with [Iowa], with significant roles. This is the start of his tryout for Bruce. I think he can be a depth guy [for Minnesota], but he needs time here. In an ideal world, I would love to see him get some NHL games this year as part of his development.”
With the bottom pairing for Minnesota far from a lock with the free agency signings this summer, that “ideal world” may come sooner than you’d think. He’s a strong skater and has said that he likes to focus on his defensive play. He does things like staying above pucks and challenging attackers; qualities I’d want over a guy who has the moniker of a blueliner but forgets his primary duties in favor of scoring.
Soucy’s highest ranking at HW? 8th. His lowest? Last at 41st. It’s easy to count him out because of age and his offensive production in favor of a pick like Gustav Bouramman. Right now, however, it looks like Iowa is ready to put a lot of faith into his development to get him to the NHL.
What does he need to work on the most in 2017-18? First it’ll be adjusting to the professional game, though Lalonde said at PDC that he was impressive in his three games with Iowa last season. The most important thing in winning the confidence of fans will be finding that scorers sheet early while keeping opposing offenses in check. Last season, Iowa was able to hold the opposition under 200 goals, only the fourth time ever for a Minnesota affiliate since 2001.
This off-season, GMCF went out and got two established AHLers in Ryan Murphy (a former top 15 pick) and Alex Grant, who scored 49 points (17G/32A) with the Providence Bruins last season. Both have a scoring prowess and both will be there to provide a standard that Soucy will have to match if he wants to earn a shot with the organization after next season.