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Tampa Bay Lightning sign NCAA Free Agent defenseman Declan Carlile

A left-handed defenseman to join the Syracuse Crunch.

Merrimack v Massachusetts-Amherst Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed NCAA Free Agent defenseman Declan Carlile to an entry-level contract. The entry-level contract will start with the 2022-23 season. Because Carlile will turn 22 in May, his entry-level contract is only for two years. He’ll report to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL for the remainder of the 2021-22 season on an amateur try-out.

Carlile is listed at 6’2” and 192 pounds and is a left-handed defenseman. Carlile was first eligible for the NHL Entry Draft in 2018. In his draft year, he played for the Wllington Dukes of the OJHL recording six goals and 39 points in 54 games plus five goals and 13 points in 25 playoff games.

He spent the 2018-19 season in the USHL, splitting the season between the Lincoln Stars and Muskegon Lumberjacks, recording four goals and 19 points in 59 games combined between the two teams. He also added two assists in eight playoff games for the Lumberjacks.

After his USHL season, Carlile moved on to NCAA hockey playing for Merrimack College. As a freshman, he recorded four goals and 22 points in 34 games. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was a finalist for the Hockey East Rookie of the Year award. His performance as a freshman was not enough to get him drafted in his final year NHL Draft eligibility.

Due to the pandemic, his sophomore season was shortened to just 14 games with him recording two goals and 10 points. This season as a junior, Carlile recorded seven goals and 24 points over 35 games played.

In reading up on Carlile, there are a few things that stick out to me. One is that he doesn’t take a lot of penalties. He had 22 PIMs in 34 games as a freshman, 10 PIMs in 14 games as a sophomore, and just 8 PIMs in 35 games as a junior. The big one though is that he’s a shot blocking machine. According to the Merrimack Athletics web site, he was the NCAA statistical champion in 2020-21 with 3.14 blocked shots per game and had at least one blocked shot in every game. He also posted a career-high eight blocked shots in a game that season.

Carlile has decent size on the blue line, though he could probably stand to put on a little more muscle. The projection for him to the NHL is definitely up in the air though. He’ll have to work hard in the AHL to prove himself and work on any deficiencies in his game to get a chance at the NHL level. The Lightning are also currently stacked on the left side with Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev, so that makes it more difficult for him to find a path to the NHL in the next few years.

The Lightning have continued their approach of looking for prospects beyond the draft. At the moment, the AHL defenseman depth chart is looking a bit young and inexperienced at the professional level. On the left side, the Syracuse Crunch have Carlile, Sean Day, and Dmitri Semykin under contract. The team should be bringing in at least one veteran minor league defenseman on the left side to bolster the depth, and it will probably be two. One of those players could be Ryan Jones who has played 54 games for the Crunch this season on an AHL contract.

On the right side, the defense is looking about the same with Alex Green being the only experienced right-handed defenseman signed for next year that should be in Syracuse. Green should also be getting joined from Jack Thompson who will graduate from the OHL to the professional ranks as well as Nick Perbix, a big right-handed defenseman who is a NCAA senior whose season hasn’t ended yet to allow him to sign. Darren Raddysh is a free agent, though he’d be a solid candidate to bring back again. Andrej Sustr, who was claimed off waivers by the Anaheim Ducks, is also a player that could come back as a free agent in the summer.