January 6, 2024
Former Ontario Junior Hockey League standout defenceman Declan Carlile made his NHL debut Thursday night.
The Wellington Duke alum took 20 shifts, playing 11 minutes and 27 seconds during his Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. Carlile was a plus-1, with two blocked shots and a hit.
Asked about taking the traditional solo rookie lap around the Xcel Energy Center ice surface, Carlile laughed.
“I didn’t want to fall,” Carlile told the team’s Bolts TV broadcast. “That was the biggest fear, but it went well, so it was good.”
He said “the atmosphere” of playing in an NHL game stood out. Attendance was 18,689.
“It’s something I’ve never played in before, obviously, with that many people in there and seeing guys I watched growing up and now I’m on the ice with them. I think it’s really cool. It’s something that’s hard to explain, but it’s a good feeling.”
The Michigan native’s parents and girlfriend made it to Minnesota to witness his debut.
“It was awesome,” he said. “My dad’s not one to do that stuff, because he doesn’t want to jinx anything. I’m happy they were able to get here. It means a ton to me. They were with me every step of the way, obviously. Undrafted, went to school… I didn’t really know where I’d end up. Now I’m here. It’s just a full-circle moment.”
Lightning Coach Jon Cooper liked what he saw from Carlile.
“The kid did great,” he said. “It’s really exciting times for everyone when somebody gets to play in their first NHL game.”
See the full interview here:
Carlile, 23, has three goals and nine points through 31 games this season with the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa’s American Hockey League affiliate. The Lightning signed the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Carlile to a two-year, entry-level contract on March 16, 2022 as a college free agent out of Merrimack College.
Carlile was returned to Syracuse Friday. The Crunch are in Toronto to play the Marlies Saturday afternoon.
Carlile was named to the OJHL’s All-Prospect Second Team while playing with the league champion Dukes in 2018-19. The Dukes went on to win the Dudley Hewitt Cup and play in the national championship game that season.
Carlile was ranked 162nd for the 2020 NHL Draft but was not selected.
-with files from the Tampa Bay Lightning