May 30th, 2024

Tigers venture South: sign highly-touted U.S. draft pick Gordon-Carroll

By JAMES TUBB on April 20, 2024.

Jonathan Nackstrand OIS via AP Shaeffer Gordon-Carroll, of USA skates with the puck while under pressure from Markus Ruck and Adam Valentini, of Canada, in the Ice Hockey Men's 6-on-6 Tournament Semifinals between Canada and USA at the Gangneung Hockey Centre during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, in Gangwon, South Korea on Jan. 30.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

Shaeffer Gordon-Carroll has traversed a long, winding road in his short hockey career and the Utah product is ready to travel the rest of the way as a Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Tigers announced the signing of the 15-year-old forward Friday after selecting him ninth overall in the 2023 U.S. draft. Head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins says his addition is an exciting signing for the organization.

“It’s been a long process, we’ve talked to him coming in at development camp and right through, he’s a guy we wanted for sure,” Desjardins said. “It’s great he played on the Junior Olympic team for the U.S., so you know he’s a high end guy.

“I like him, I like the family too, it was a long process but it was certainly a worthy process.”

Gordon-Carroll says there’s been a lot of excitement in his household over the last month as they made the decision to join the Tigers.

“The excitement level for the past month knowing that I’m gonna sign with Med Hat has been a 10,” Gordon-Carroll said. “My family’s excited, I’m excited and I’m just pumped to go to rookie camp and the main camp and then hopefully make the team and get after it.”

He says it’s been quite the path over the years, with him and his dad driving seven hours back-and-forth from Colorado for hockey before they switched routes, geographically and hockey wise, and he joined the Chicago Mission. Last season with the Mission’s U14AAA team, Gordon-Carroll had eight goals and 20 points in 15 games, which led to the Tigers drafting him.

Gordon-Carroll says the draft selection was a milestone for himself and stuck with him as he tried out for the U.S. National Development team. It was then the young forward says he decided he wanted to join the orange and black.

“My family said just keep your head forward, if Med Hat is going to be the choice, you’re going to want it. You’ll always have a feeling about it and they’ll always be in your head,” Gordon-Carroll said. “When I went to the 40-man, I could not get Medicine Hat out of my mind.

“Watching playoffs, the playoffs were awesome. The speed, it looks like the NHL just a tiny bit slow because everybody’s younger. So that’s pretty much my reason, the coaches are awesome and the boys are amazing.”

Gordon-Carroll attended Tigers’ development camp and rookie camp last season and says if he didn’t attend those camps and hadn’t gotten as comfortable as he did in the city, he wouldn’t have made this decision.

He’s already played against some of his future teammates, playing for Team U.S.A at the Youth Winter Olympics against Team Canada with Markus and Liam Ruck. The United States won gold at the tournament and Canada finished fourth, a bragging right he looks to use with the Rucks.

“Representing your country is the biggest honour in sports and winning gold just makes it 10-times better,” Gordon-Carroll said. “It shows you can compete against the other countries and see where you stack up against other kids. I had a role and my role was to make sure the top line doesn’t score. So when Liam and Markus were out there, they would not score on me.”

On top of winning gold for his country, Gordon-Carroll and the Mission won a national title this spring, capping off a winning year. His next serving of excitement will come at the end of May, when he returns to Medicine Hat as a signed player to take part in development camp alongside the 2009-born WHL draft class.

“I probably won’t be as nervous as last time, but I still get the jitters thinking about it, I’m still excited,” Gordon-Carroll said. “It’s still the same feeling I had first time going up there, I’m excited to go and I’m excited to live in Med Hat.”

He describes himself as a 200-foot player who plays like a bulldozer and adds some skill, trying to be physical while also setting up his teammates. Gordon-Carroll’s message to Tigers fans who haven’t seen him play, expect high-tempo hockey.

“Lots of hits, lots of excitement, I’m going to try to play my best and prove to you guys that I’m capable of playing up there,” Gordon-Carroll said.

Desjardins says he’s the type of player teams can win with.

“He’s going to be a heavy guy through the middle, whenever you look at playoffs and you look at good teams, usually they have some good strength down the middle and he’ll give us that,” Desjardins said. “I like that he’s got good compete in him. I just think he’s a guy that really fits our team and we’re really excited about getting him in.”

Gordon-Carroll already has a connection with his future potential head coach, the first NHL game he saw was in Dallas with the Stars taking on the Calgary Flames. Desjardins was an assistant coach with Dallas at the time and years later, Gordon-Carroll says God had a nice timing for him to join the Tigers with Desjardins behind the bench.

Gordon-Carroll has another reason to celebrate at the moment, with his hometown of Salt Lake City receiving an NHL team for the upcoming season as the Arizona Coyotes have been relocated. He’s already trying to convince his grandpa to get season tickets so he can see some games during the WHL Holiday break and he is excited to see Utah get another major sports team beyond the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

He weighed in on the potential nickname for the new franchise, tabbing the ‘Utah Yetis’ or ‘Utah Hockey Club’ as the names he would choose.

“Just nothing cheesy.”

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