CHICAGO -- Matt Carey was torn between pursuing a professional hockey career and returning for another season at St. Lawrence University.
Carey opted to leave school after his redshirt freshman season and signed with the Blackhawks on Thursday. He met his new teammates for the first time this weekend.
"The first day was a little bit intimidating," the 22-year-old Carey said on Sunday. "I walked into the dressing room [and] the first couple of guys I met were Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell. It was a little bit nerve-wrecking. As soon as I got into the dressing room and started skating, I got a little bit less nervous."
St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel tried to convince Carey to stay one more season at St. Lawrence, but Carey thought he had a chance to develop quicker in the NHL, especially with the Blackhawks.
"It was honestly one of the toughest decisions in my life to leave school early," Carey said. "You got a great coaching staff at St. Lawrence. You got Greg Carvel, who coached in the NHL for 10 years. I had my brother there, and I miss a lot of my friends there obviously. I made a lot of friendships that will probably be with me the rest of my life. Just thinking about that, it was obviously a tough decision for me."
Carey, who is 6 foot and 185-pounds, had 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games as a redshirt freshman at St. Lawrence University this past season. His brother, Greg, was a senior on the team and signed with the Phoenix Coyotes last week.
Carey said he and his brother spoke about going to the same organization, but they chose what was best for each person.
"It was kind of we had to do it separately, so it didn’t impact each of our decisions," Carey said. "I didn’t want to talk to him about where he was going to sign, and he didn’t want to talk to me where I was going to sign. We just wanted to go where the best opportunity was going to be kind of thing."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville got a chance to watch Carey skate with Teuvo Teravainen and a few other players on Sunday morning. Quenneville said he was impressed by him. Quenneville said Carey could play in a game before the regular season ends.
"It was nice watching him play, not having an idea what he looks like," Quenneville said. "But he looks like a nice player. In a short amount of time, you haven’t seen him play hockey yet, but you like the way he worked and I liked his skill set. Teuvo, we’ve seen before, so I was a little more curious on Matt."
Blackhawks general Stan Bowman said Friday he pursued Carey because of his offensive ability.
"I've had a chance to see Matt play a couple games this year, most recently in playoff matchups, and he's a really good player for our future," Bowman said. "I think we look at our strength as an organization, it's being able to develop players, and whether we draft them or sign them as free agents, I have a lot of faith in our development group.
"Matt's a big, strong centerman, and he's got a little bit of versatility to his game. He plays a skill game. He can score goals. He had 18 goals, tied for his team lead, but he also plays a two-way game, so we're going to get a chance to see him here as well."