Declan Carlile comes to Merrimack after two impressive years of junior hockey, including this past season when he spent the year developing in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars and then the Muskegon Lumberjacks, following a trade.
Carlile, 19, began his junior career in the OJHL with the Wellington Dukes, where he was a teammate with fellow Merrimack freshman defenseman Zach Uens. While with the Dukes, Carlile was part of the 2018 team that advanced to the RBC Cup and won the 2018 OJHL Championship; he was also named OJHL Second Team All-Prospect in 2018.
Last season Carlile transitioned to the USHL where he totaled 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 59 games on the blue line as an 18-year-old.
Name: Declan Carlile
Hometown: Hartland, Mich.
Last Team: Muskegon (USHL)
Major: Business Administration
TMR: Coming out of the OJHL, you were a highly-sought prospect who was making a lot of waves. What made Merrimack the place you wanted to commit?
Carlile: “Like some of the other guys, the campus stood out to me. I wasn’t looking for anything huge. Then here you get the chance to play in such a great conference and play against top guys every night. That definitely had a big impact on where I wanted to go to school.”
TMR: How would you describe your style?
Carlile: “I like to think of myself as an all-around defenseman. I’ve played on the power play but I’ve also been out there on the penalty kill. I like to be out there in different situations. I try to make a good first pass out of the zone and it all starts with defending my own zone well.”
TMR: Is your size an advantage? How do you try to use some of that extra reach?
Carlile: “This past year in the USHL, that’s where I really began to notice it because you’re playing against bigger and stronger guys. I don’t abuse it too much, but taking advantage of my size is definitely something I’d like to incorporate into my game.”
TMR: I saw online you’re a U.S. and Canadian dual citizen?
Carlile: “Yeah, my dad is from a town called Caledon, Ontario. It’s just past Toronto.”
TMR: And you grew up in Michigan?
TMR: Obviously Ontario is the heart of OHL country and so is Michigan, to a certain extent. How do you weigh that decision on where you want to play? OHL or NCAA?
Carlile: “I always knew that I wanted to go to school. Where I grew up in Michigan, we went to a lot of Saginaw Spirit games, but we’re also close to a lot of college programs as well. For me, the opportunity to play hockey and get an education was something I wanted to do. I’d like to play hockey for as long as possible, but getting an education was important to me.
“At least the guys I grew up playing with, we were watching a lot of guys from our area go to college hockey at the time, so that also kind of pushes you towards college, but for me, it was really something I always wanted to do.”
TMR: Where did your game develop the most when you made the jump from the OJHL to the USHL?
Carlile: “You need to bring your ‘A’ game every night. You can’t be out there and not be focused or take even one shift off because everyone out there is so big and strong and fast. You need to be willing to compete hard every night. That got me ready for college hockey because now it will be another jump. You need to incorporate focus and your ‘A’ game every night.”
TMR: What was the experience like being traded in the middle of the season?
Carlile: “For me, it was great. I went to one of the best teams in the league, so that’s nice. Then on top of that Muskegon is only about an hour and a half from my house, and I had been living away from home for a long time, so it was nice that my family was so close. My parents really liked it. It was a great fit. I loved the coaches there and the team was a bunch of great guys. It couldn’t have been better for me.”
TMR: What do you like best about being on campus early this summer?
Carlile: “We’ve spent a lot of time just being together and getting to know each other. That’s important with 16 or 17 new guys. But it’s also important for us to be getting in the gym and to understand what they’re looking for, weight-wise. And it’s good to be on the ice four days a week just working on our own and working on whatever skills we want to work on.”