Most NHL players have that “Ah-ha” moment.
It may have occurred in minor, junior or college hockey when an encouraging effort flicked the motivation switch for a professional career. And although the odds are extremely long to get to “The Show”, there would be an undaunted pursuit to play in the NHL one day.
Carson Soucy never had that early light-bulb moment.
The Vancouver Canucks defenceman was born in Viking, Alta. and raised in the nearby sports-crazy town of Irma, population 500. It was a hub of softball superiority, and Soucy helped Canada secure fourth place at the 2012 world junior championship in Argentina. He also loved baseball and became a big fan of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hockey was a thing, but it wasn’t everything.
“Just growing up, I never ever thought (the NHL) was a possibility, so when I got drafted I thought it was cool,” said Soucy. “But there’s a lot of fifth-rounders who don’t make it (Kevin Bieksa did), and I was in college for four years and had two more in the minors.
“And even then, I still thought it was a long shot, but then it kind of happened. In the AHL, I started to play pretty well, but never let myself have a chance to think I’ll be (in the NHL). I thought it was still going to be a really big step — which it was.”
His 263 games split between the Minnesota Wild, Seattle Kraken and the Canucks have proved the journey is the adventure.
Soucy was excelling at the Triple-A midget level, but was cut from an Edmonton Oilers camp because the Western Hockey League club was stacked on the back end. A strong Alberta Junior Hockey League season piqued the interest of the Wild and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Soucy, 29, was claimed by the Kraken in the NHL expansion draft, but then became expendable. He signed a three-year, $9.75-million US free-agent contract with the Canucks on July 1 and is expected to play during a seven-game road trip after missing 22 games following an ankle fracture Nov. 12 at Montreal.
Here’s the engaging Soucy in our latest Q&A:
Q. You’re 6-foot-5, but had a growth spurt. What happened?
A. I was 5-foot-10 when I got my driver’s license at 16. I grew six inches, and at 17, I had one more year of midget left, and was kind of getting used to being tall. I got a little less uncoordinated in my last year of high school, and then in junior and college.
Q. Your first NHL game was April 2, 2018. What do you recall?
A. We beat the Oilers 3-0. My family came into town (St. Paul) and there was even a watch party back home at the golf course. We had a strong group in Minnesota where you could come up and we played such a good system. It was easy to pair with Nate Prosser and we kept our game simple. (Soucy had three shots, two blocks, a take-away, and an even rating against Edmonton.)
Q. How did Bruce Boudreau help you evolve in Minnesota?
A. He was great, and I obviously owe Bruce a lot. He gave me my shot and had confidence in me right away. Whether it was the year coming out of camp, or just playing, he showed trust and I have nothing but good things to say about him.
Q. You had a Wild paring with Ian Cole. Why did it work?
A. He’s been through a lot of systems and can just kind of give suggestions of what works best against multiple teams. His presence is a big deal for the D-core. Lots of playoff runs and games and experience. Obviously, a great guy and teammate.
Q. What’s the next step to really test your ankle injury?
A. The toughest thing is getting explosiveness back in the ankle. And then the speed. We’ve had high-paced practices in which I felt good. There’s that one more step where I can get that explosiveness to get that pop. We’re kind of taking it day-by-day.
Q. What did you learn by watching these Canucks evolve?
A. A lot if it is confidence and structure, and everybody just knows their roles. And the work ethic, too. Throughout the good start, they did a good job of continuing to build and get better, and that’s huge for down the road when games get tight.
Q. When are you most effective to ensure that structure?
A. It starts with the D-zone and having good gaps and showing that I’m moving my feet for the break-out and then start some stuff in O-zone. I have to keep the puck moving north.
Q. How did a dad to twin girls help injury recovery?
A. Twin girls on Sept. 13 — Blake and Briar — so a lot of dad time. It’s kind of good because they change every week. It’s great now. It helps pass the time for sure. If I didn’t have something to go home to and keep busy, I think I would have done a little stir crazy. They keep you busy and time goes fast.
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