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Tampa Bay Lightning Top 25 Under 25: #19 Declan Carlile

The offensive defenseman has been a good pickup for the Syracuse Crunch

Syndication: Daily Press and Argus
Declan Carlile of Hartland won the shooting accuracy competition in the Made in Michigan Elite League All-Star Skills Contest on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Kensington Valley Ice House.
Timothy Arrick/For the Livingston Daily / USA TODAY NETWORK

Declan Carlile joins the Tampa Bay Lightning organization as an undrafted free agent out of Merrimack College. At the age of 22, the 6’2” left shooting defender is considered a smart, offensively creative player with OK skating and strong decision making skills. After finishing the NCAA season, Carlile was signed by the Lightning and joined the Syracuse Crunch where he has seemed to be a good pickup. Carlile has a good skillset and style that can be developed up to a possible big, offensive third pair sheltered defenseman in the NHL.

Here is a scouting report from Elite Prospects from his D+2 year that describes the defender really well. His involvement in the Merrimack offense that I talk about later is a result of him joining the rush and making it four players deep. His strong decision making allows him to take risks and not put himself in difficult positions. I’d like to see more of this difference-making hockey once he gains some confidence on the Crunch.

“Carlile is a stalwart rush defender, who meticulously makes smart reads, and executes on great decision-making. His ability to time defensive actions with his stick and his body stood out to our scouting team. He grabs his man and has some ability to switch his assignment decisively. He has an active stick and tries to clog lanes by attempting to block shots.” - EliteProspects 2020 NHL Draft Guide

The Player

Undrafted in 2018, the now 22-year-old came from Merrimack College in the NCAA where he was an alternate captain and a primary offense driver from the back end. He finished second in the team in shots on goal, third in assists, and his seven goals led all defenders by a mile. After last season he signed an NHL deal with the Lightning, ending his NCAA career and beginning fresh in the AHL.

Carlile had 56 points in 83 career NCAA games across his three seasons while roughly keeping a consistently strong points rate across that time. But in that time his plus-minus improved dramatically as Merrimack improved from a bottom-feeder to a playoff team. It’s unclear how much influence Carlile had on that surge as we don’t have goals for/against information from the NCAA. Then I’d be able to tell if his results improved as the team did or they caught up to him. What we do have is total plus-minus, which went from -10 to +14 in his three years.

Carlile was presumably the #1 defenseman for Merrimack for most of his time there, but when he came to the Syracuse Crunch, he started on the third pair on the left side. What impressed me, however, was that he kept this role in four of five playoff games for the Crunch. In terms of his position in the lineup, Carlile played mostly left side on the third pair, but was sometimes pushed to the right side when all three of Fredrik Claesson, Ryan Jones, and Sean Day were available. Frank Hora who came over from Charlotte was a common partner for him. Carlile basically put Dmitry Semykin out of a job immediately.

Carlile’s big job next season (this season) will be to beat out Sean Day for his job in the lineup. They play a similar game and would need to be leveraged with usage in a similar way. I think aiming for someone who played in the NHL last year is a high bar, but I nonetheless believe it’s an achievable goal. If Carlile can go into the team and make himself an indispensable part of the offense who gets the job done in his own end, it’ll do wonders for his NHL chances. I think he has the tools to do it.

One area of weakness I think Carlile will have, especially moving from the NCAA to the AHL, is his skating. Players just switch sides quicker and get moving faster. He’ll need to work on his pivots, which I didn’t love in the highlights I saw, and get his feet moving. The AHL is a faster pace, he’ll need to anticipate that. He has a good hockey mind and knows where the opportunities are, his task will be to get his body to those places.

Highlights

Declan Carlile is #3 on defense for Merrimack in these highlights.

Poll

What pairing do you see Declan Carlile ending up on within the organization by the end of this season?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    NHL third pair/scratch
    (6 votes)
  • 32%
    AHL first pair
    (16 votes)
  • 32%
    AHL second pair
    (16 votes)
  • 20%
    AHL third pair
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    ECHL
    (1 vote)
49 votes total Vote Now