College free-agent forward Carey loves his opportunity with Coyotes

If Greg Carey were a college free agent 20 years ago, his phone would have been ringing off the hook with NHL teams calling about signing him.

Modern technology gave him a different problem.

“I ran out of my phone minutes on my AT&T calling plan for the first time,” Carey said in a phone interview, after getting some more minutes. “It’s been a little overwhelming at times, but it’s been fun. It’s kind of a good problem to have.”

A handful of teams showed interest in Carey before the Phoenix Coyotes signed the Hamilton native to a one-year entry-level contract Wednesday. The 23-year-old St. Lawrence University forward was so sought-after because he’s again a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA men’s hockey player.

Carey, who led the NCAA with 39 assists and was second with 58 points in 38 games, picked the Coyotes because he believes they offer a good chance to make an impact on offence.

“I’ve kind of prided myself in my college career in my ability to contribute offensively to kind of put pucks in the back of the net and create plays and make chances,” Carey said. “They’re kind of happy with my style of play and excited to have me to add my little offensive flare to their system.”

The Coyotes, a middle-of-the-pack offensive team this season, dealt young forward prospect Chris Brown to the Washington Capitals in a trade that got them veteran Martin Erat. Carey is set to report to the same Portland Pirates AHL team that Brown had 35 points for this season.

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Carey would obviously love to be able to play for the soon-to-be-renamed Arizona Coyotes next season but said he’ll do “whatever I need to do” there or in Portland. Assistant general manager Brad Treliving told the team website that Carey has been a point-producer and goal-scorer at every level but also that it’s a big step into the world of pro hockey.

Signing a one-year contract also makes 2014-15 a big risk-reward season for Carey, who wasn’t drafted out of minor midget and played tier-2 junior A hockey with the Burlington Cougars before going to St. Lawrence University in upstate New York.

“You get a year to come in and prove yourself and kind of show what you’ve got and kind of put everything on the line,” Carey said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for college players after we’re done. … It’s a challenge that you kind of look forward to.”

Carey would have liked for brother Matt, a St. Lawrence junior, to join him in the Coyotes’ organization. Instead, Matt Carey signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

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