Consistency is something that is valuable in the NHL. If there has been one bright spot on the Capitals blueline for the past several years, it has been John Carlson. Carlson does not make the nightly highlight reels, but his importance to the Washington Capitals is extremely high.
The 24-year old Natick, MA native was drafted by the Capitals in the first round back in 2008. Carlson has worked his way up in the Capitals system and into one of the most underrated two-way defenseman in the NHL.
Carlson was all over the ice in all situations for the Capitals. Statistically, Carlson set a career high with 10 goals. He had 37 points which was second best on the Capitals (Green, 38). He led all Capitals defensemen with 22 powerplay points and 208 shots on net.
Carlson just about led all Capitals defensemen in time on ice. He excelled and was used the most on the Capitals powerplay, penalty kill, and at even-strength. He averaged 24:30 of icetime in 2013-14, which was best among Capitals defensemen. Carlson and full time defensive partner Karl Alzner were the only two Capitals defensemen to suit up for all 82 games in 2013-14.
Carlson’s stellar consistent play earned him a spot on Team USA’s roster during the Sochi Olympics. In six games in Sochi, Carlson registered one goal and two points during the tournament. He was paired with new Capitals blueliner and former Penguin Brooks Orpik during the Olympic games.
It is safe to say that Carlson had a pretty good year for the Capitals in 2013-14. He has become a reliable body on the blueline as he has not missed many games throughout his NHL career.
Two-way minute-munching defensemen are hard to come by in the NHL. Carlson’s name is not really mentioned in the same sentence with players like Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, and Drew Doughty because he does not have the similar offensive flair that those other defensemen have. It is hard to argue that Carlson does not bring most of the elements to the game that those other guys do. John Carlson is the most complete defenseman the Capitals have in their organization. I am sure that 29 other NHL clubs would want to have a defenseman of his caliber in their organization.
The Capitals are very fortunate to have John Carlson under contract through 2018 at a very affordable $3.96 million cap hit. Other comparable defensemen around the NHL are making $5 million and above. Carlson’s contract could be one of the biggest bargain deals in the NHL today.
Roles/Expectations This Season
Carlson’s role on the Capitals will remain the same. He will be placed in one of the Capitals top two defensive pairings to shut down the opposition. Barry Trotz will count on him to play in all situations on the ice. He will probably lead the Capitals defensive core on special teams and at even-strength.
With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, Carlson’s work load should become lighter. Niskanen might eat into some of Carlson’s powerplay time, while Orpik will eat into some of his penalty killing time. There is a good possibility that Carlson and Orpik will become a defense tandem at some point this season.
Carlson’s expectations on the ice are pretty simple: provide steady two-way defensive play. He will be expected to play good defensively, but he will be given the freedom to create some offense up the ice with Barry Trotz’s system.
I would like to see Carlson contribute more in the offense. He is a good skater that has a wicked release and shot. I feel Carlson has the capability of putting up around 20 goals and 50+ points.
It will be interesting to see who Barry Trotz decides to pair Carlson with to start the season. Carlson has been virtually attached at the hip with Karl Alzner most of his career. Will that change with the arrival of Brooks Orpik? Will Alzner and Carlson stay together? Barry Trotz has plenty of options with his defensive core now. Carlson should not have to eat up as much ice time as he has done in the past, which will keep him fresher once the postseason comes around.
Carlson is only 24-years old and there is still room for growth in his game. I am not going to say he is at Norris Trophy caliber yet, but he has the mold to become an elite NHL defenseman at some point. Can he remain steady and continue to grow his game even more? He brings a lot to the Capitals on the ice every game. He is an irreplaceable piece to the Capitals blueline puzzle. If Carlson’s game continues to improve, could his name be in the same sentence with players like Duncan Keith and Alex Pietrangelo?
I believe Barry Trotz can carry Carlson’s game to the next level. Carlson has the makings to become elite, and I feel Trotz can show him the way. If there is a Capitals defensemen who will benefit most of Barry Trotz’s bench presence, it is John Carlson.
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