Armed with a college degree and a one-year contract with the Atlanta Thrashers, Dave Caruso, a product of Atlanta’s youth leagues, in July completed step one in his professional hockey career.
The 24-year-old former Ohio State standout goalie attended the Thrashers’ annual prospects camp for the first time as a member of the NHL team’s organization. He had participated in three previous camps but only as an invitee.
“It was hard, but it went well,” says Caruso, who was born in New York but raised in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, where his parents still reside. “[The Thrashers] treated me the same as they did the years prior. There wasn’t much difference.”
After returning from Columbus, where he attended two weddings and a fund-raising event in early August, Caruso planned to skate and work out with some of the Thrashers’ other young players in preparation for step two of his infant pro career.
That will come Sept. 8-12 when Caruso and 22 other Thrasher signees compete in the Detroit Red Wings’ annual Traverse City (Michigan) Prospect Evaluation Tournament. The Thrasher youngsters will play three games in four days against prospects from the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and one other NHL team.
Also on that Thrasher squad are the team’s last three No. 1 draft picks: Bryan Little (12th overall this year), Alex Bourret (16th overall, 2005) and Boris Vlabik (10th overall, 2004). Caruso, a 6-2, 220-pounder who was the first hockey player from the South to receive an athletic scholarship from a Division I school, will be one of three goaltenders on the team. As a Buckeye senior he had a sparkling 2.15 goals against average in 34 games.
The Thrashers will be coached by Jeff Pyle, the head coach and director of hockey operations for the Thrashers’ affiliate in the ECHL, the Gwinnett Gladiators. Caruso could very well wind up playing the coming season with the Gladiators, whose home arena is in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth.
Immediately after the Traverse City tournament, Caruso is slated to attend the Thrashers’ training camp in Duluth.