DU Pioneers freshman Carter Savoie’s scoring talent “the best I’ve ever seen” – The Denver Post

It was Christmas Eve 2019 and Carter Savoie was in the midst of his final season with Sherwood Park of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Tied 2-2 in the third period against Bonnyville, the Crusaders needed a hero.

Savoie stepped up.

Savoie got the puck at center ice along the boards, picked up speed and deked around a Bonnyville defenseman before pulling the puck to his backhand and sending it past the goaltender into an open net.

“It was Carter doing what Carter does best, score beautiful goals,” Crusaders coach Adam Manah said of what was later voted the AJHL goal of the year.

Savoie added a shorthanded goal moments later in a game that ended as a 6-3 rout — and one that embodies the type of player the University of Denver freshman forward is, and has been already with the Pioneers.

The 18-year-old from St. Albert, Alberta, was tied for the NCAA lead with seven goals, and second in power-play goals (four) heading into Saturday night’s rematch against Colorado College. He was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference December rookie of the month Friday thanks to his strong start.

The savvy scorer’s college career began with six goals in five games — an achievement that surprised many, including Pioneers head coach David Carle.

“It’s really hard to step in and have success in college hockey, especially right away,” Carle said. “Did we believe that he’d come in and make an impact on our team? Yes. Did we believe he’d score a goal in his first five games? I wouldn’t expect anybody to do that, to be honest.”

Perhaps Carle should’ve known to expect the unexpected with Savoie.

The left winger on DU’s top line and right winger on the Pios’ top power play, Savoie scored a league-high 53 goals in 54 games in his final season for Sherwood Park — making him just the sixth player to reach the 50-goal mark in the AJHL since 2000.

Carle described Savoie’s ability to generate offense as “the best I’ve ever seen,” and those sentiments were echoed by Manah.

“When Carter moved on this year we were saying that we may not see that type of goal scorer for a long, long time,” Manah said.

Savoie was drafted by the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League in 2017 and had an opportunity to continue his career through the Canadian major-junior program — which is considered semi-professional and strips a player of NCAA eligibility. But DU assistant Tavis MacMillan was instrumental in identifying Savoie’s talent at a young age and helping entice him into choosing the NCAA route.

MacMillan, a Canadian native and former scout for the Winnipeg Jets, began recruiting Savoie when he was 14. He and his parents were given a tour of the DU campus two years later and Savoie quickly fell in love.

“They have a winning atmosphere and I want to win a national championship someday,” said Savoie, who committed to the Pioneers at age 16.

Savoie had a familiar face join him in Denver. Mike Benning, a Sherwood Park teammate and longtime friend, is also an 18-year-old freshman for the Pioneers. They were drafted five picks apart in October’s NHL draft. Savoie was taken in the fourth round at 100th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, while Benning went 95th to the Florida Panthers. Manah said Savoie — who entered the draft ranked 50th among North American skaters — could become the steal of the draft and a regular for Edmonton, which is right outside the suburb of St. Albert.

Savoie and Benning shared draft day together.

“Mike and I were watching the draft in the morning before going to practice,” Savoie said. “Nothing happened when I was on the ice but as soon as I got off I saw that he had gotten picked and then a few moments later the Oilers called me and said that they drafted me.”

Savoie is intrigued by the idea of potentially starting his professional career alongside two of the NHL’s top centermen in Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. But he remains patient, taking his development day-by-day until he’s ready to make the jump.

If given the opportunity, Carle believes he’ll make the most of it — just as he has thus far in his young college career.

“It’s a long path to get there and our goal is to help him achieve those individual successes while attacking and achieving a lot of team success here with our program,” Carle said.

If his first 10 games in crimson and gold are any indication, that young player from Sherwood Park is on the right path.

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