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Alexandre Carrier: From “Pleasant Surprise” to Key Piece of Preds’ Future

After a breakthrough 2021-22 season, Preds fans should expect even more from Carrier this season

Nashville Predators v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

As we approach the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, On The Forecheck is taking an in-depth look at expectations for each Nashville Predators player for the new season. Today, we’re taking a look at defender Alexandre Carrier.

2021-22 Recap:
Regular Season: 77 GP, 3 G, 27 A, 30 P, CF% (All situations) 43.22%, 20:58 ATOI
Playoffs: 4 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P, CF% (All situations) 38.38%, 21:21 ATOI

Alexandre Carrier has evolved from “pleasant surprise” to “an integral piece of the Predators’ future.” The man who made his NHL debut five months before the Predators made the Stanley Cup Final quietly put together one of the best official rookie campaigns in team history. His 27 assists and 30 points are both team records for rookie defenders — beating the likes of Dan Hamhuis, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Seth Jones — and his appearance on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team is the first such honor for a Nashville blueliner.

In review, it was hard to find too much wrong with Carrier’s game. Offensively, he was the best blueliner other than Josi to drive play. Defensively, Carrier developed a habit of making simple, effective hockey plays to get the Preds out of dangerous situations on a reliable basis. He was a key contributor on the power play, penalty kill, late-game situations when the Preds were both holding a lead and trying to even the score... you name the scenario, there’s a strong chance you saw Carrier on the ice.

Carrier’s Expectations for 2022-23

While there are some fair questions about what Carrier’s ceiling in the NHL can be, it’s still conceivable that there’s still some room for improvement. Carrier turns 26 right as the season begins, which means he’s still at the genesis of his prime years.

A new influx of depth pieces could lead to an even better scoring season for Carrier next season, especially with the man advantage. Carrier only had 4 points on the power play last season, largely due to the Preds’ inability to find any semblance of quality play from their second unit. However, the Preds should have a little bit more offensive firepower in the mix this year, which should lead to better production from that unit. A few more points on the power play, combined with the natural “next step” in his development could turn Carrier into a 40-point player.

On the defensive end of the rink, the hope is that Carrier can simply build upon his strong season. Carrier’s not going to make some wild, 100-foot pass from behind his own net to spur a break-in like Victor Hedman, nor is he going to shimmy past a sea of forecheckers to take it coast-to-coast like Cale Makar, but that’s fine. Carrier’s game is making the easy-yet-effective play on a routine basis. He’s going to stay in position and be where he needs to be to cover the play; nothing flashy, but it certainly gets the job done. If he can keep up that level of consistency, he’ll have another effective season.

The big question entering the season is, who will be Carrier’s partner? He and Dante Fabbro are the top two right-handed shots on the roster. But with the addition of Ryan McDonagh, there’s a chance either Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, or McDonagh himself could move over to the right side. If Carrier is paired with Josi, expect him to play the Ryan Ellis role: solid as a puck-handler and distributor, but will serve as more of a defensive anchor so Josi can jump into the play. On the other hand, if Carrier is paired with someone like McDonagh or Ekholm, each of whom play that anchor role, we can see Carrier get a longer leash to be aggressive in the attacking zone.

One Bold Prediction

As we discovered with last season’s Norris voting, some members of the PHWA have some... (what’s a nice way to put this)... unique reasons for voting for certain awards. Last season, it cost Roman Josi the Norris Trophy.

Well this year, let’s let the craziness work in Nashville’s favor!

I’m predicting Alexandre Carrier will get at least one Norris vote.

Let’s face it, every year there’s at least one hipster voter who goes “hmm yeah Roman Josi had that near 100-point season; but to me, Christopher Tanev really embodied the role of game-changing defenseman this season!” If the Preds can clean up some of their defensive breakdowns from last season, Carrier should benefit from some boosted analytics, and if he’s paired with Josi, his play could get a little more exposure on the national level, much like Mackenzie Weegar this past season.

No, I’m not predicting him to win the thing (that prediction may be reserved for one of his teammates). But hey, if things really go well for the Preds this season, someone could definitely throw a random out-of-nowhere fifth vote Carrier’s way at the end of the season.