Carlo a ‘Bear Essential’ in Boston’s draft plans
Ask most prospects pegged to go in the first couple rounds of the NHL Entry Draft and safe bet they’ll tell you it’s an exciting – but nerve-wracking – weekend.
Brandon Carlo knows the feeling. A highly touted defenseman from Colorado Springs, he wanted nothing more than to be chosen in the first round during this year’s draft, which was conducted on June 26 in Sunrise, Fla.
He went to sleep that evening with his fate still undecided.
“Friday night, I truly was hoping to hear my name called and, as names kept going by, it wasn’t the easiest thing,” said Carlo. “But, overall, I was excited because I didn’t feel like I’d be waiting around too long on Saturday.”
He was right. In short order, the Boston Bruins selected Carlo in the second round with the 37th overall pick.
It marked a surreal moment for the affable blueliner.
“I was lost for words; I was pretty much speechless,” said the 1996-born Carlo, recounting the moments after his name was called at BB&T Center. “I went down and I was struggling through the interview because I was still so excited to hear my name get called.
“I was ecstatic. I’m really happy how it all worked out.”
And the Bruins were just as elated to see Carlo’s name still on the board when their first second-round pick came along.
“That was one guy we thought would be gone,” said Boston’s director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky. “He’s a big, mobile defenseman, and he’s a stay-at-home defenseman. We’re excited about him.”
Carlo’s path to high-end NHL prospect began with Colorado Hockey Club (now the Colorado Rampage), where he began playing as a 5-year-old. He then joined the powerhouse Colorado Thunderbirds program where his game emerged significantly.
Carlo first joined the Thunderbirds as a 12-year-old and, according to the program’s director of hockey operations and 16U National coach Angelo Ricci, “he was big and you could see his ability, even at that age.”
At the 13U level, the now-6-foot-5, 195-pound Carlo learned under the tutelage of former NHL standout Pierre Turgeon. He played 12U on Kent Murphy’s team and 14U for Kris Kostolansky.
From there, he advanced to play on Ricci’s 16U teams for two seasons. It was then his game was refined to the point where he was drawing significant interest in the North American scouting circles.
“I think you just saw a progression,” explained Ricci. “When you’re a big kid, sometimes there are awkward stages of your game. By the time he got to me, you could see (his development as a player).”
Carlo applauds the guidance both programs provided as he began to evolve into an elite prospect.
“Playing for the Thunderbirds and a little for CHC, I grew as a player, and being a leader on a few of those teams helped me become a better person off the ice, too,” said Carlo. “These teams provided the opportunity and it was up to me to take advantage of it. The work is only beginning for me, but it all started with those teams.”
After his first 16U season with the Thunderbirds, Carlo was selected by the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League Futures Draft, but made the mature choice to stay home to continue to hone his craft.
“He decided he needed another year of development, so he came back,” said Ricci. “That’s when he really took off.”
For the last two full seasons, Carlo has patrolled the blue line for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. He got a taste of the Dub as 16-year-old during the 2012-13 season with the Kennewick, Wash.-based club.
“I went up and played in the playoffs and scored my first goal there,” Carlo said. “I felt like I fit in pretty well, and that’s when I started to realize that I had the potential to make it.”
Last season, Carlo recorded four goals and 25 points along 90 penalty minutes for Tri-City, and was second in scoring on the team amongst defensemen while also serving as an alternate captain.
He also represented the U.S. at last year’s World Junior Championship, and there’s a good chance he’ll make the team again this year (he was invited to next month’s Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid).
Carlo is nothing but thankful for his opportunity with the Ams – he’s expected to return for another season in 2015-16 – and what’s it’s meant for his development.
“I don’t feel like I’d be in this position without my time there, and I’m happy I got to go through the (NHL draft) experience with a teammate (defenseman Parker Wotherspoon was selected in the fourth round by the New York Islanders),” said Carlo.
“We’re excited for Brandon,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said. “His growth as a player and an individual has been a pleasure to watch, and we look forward to him being a huge part of our club and leadership group this coming season.”
In his final season with the Thunderbirds, Carlo was able to contribute to his team where it counted the most – on the scoreboard. That year, he totaled 47 points on 10 goals in 41 games, thanks in part to using his formidable size, coupled with his skill, to his advantage.
“It took a little while for him to get into his body,” Thunderbirds teammate Brendan Smith said. “But once he found that, he became pretty good.”
“My size has always been very beneficial for me,” Carlo said. “When I started seeing myself progress, I just wanted to be keep getting better and better. I wanted to play against the best in the world.”
The Bruins brass certainly believes he has that ability – and the ability to do it well.
“I think we needed to add a defenseman with his traits,” Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley said. “He’s a transitional defenseman, but a high-end talent who played first-unit power play, quarterbacks the power play, walks the blue line.
“He has that little bit of grit, pushback, nastiness that comes with his game, too. And he’s really good; he’s a puck-moving defenseman who can carry it and lug it.
“I think we got somebody our guys – our coaches and our development guys – are going to really like following and helping out along the way because he’s got so much untapped potential. Our whole staff is very excited about him.”
Being property of an Original Six franchise also excites Carlo, who attended the Bruins’ recent Development Camp, which was held just outside of Boston in July.
“Obviously, there’s so much history and I couldn’t be more honored to join such an amazing and historic organization,” Carlo said. “Hockey is everything to me, and to be a part of a team like Boston couldn’t be any sweeter.
“I’m beyond excited to join the Bruins and thankful for all the help along the way.”
It’s a journey that’s just beginning, and one with endless potential.
– Daniel Mohrmann