NHL’s Most Underrated Defenseman: Capitals’ John Carlson

Washington Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson made a major name for himself as a junior. Who can ever forget his amazing goal from the point in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships that gave Team USA a 6-5 overtime win over Canada. Since then, the 25-year-old native of Colonia, NJ has blossomed into a mainstay for the Caps. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game in five seasons. For sheer strength, commitment, skill, concentration (not to mention his excellent stats), Carlson is the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.

To say Carlson is the ‘Iron Man’ of Washington is an understatement, although fellow blue-liner Karl Alzner would likely have something to say about that since he’s also not missed a game in five years. Let’s call the pair the “Iron Duo.” Carlson is often teamed up with Alzner, but nowadays he shares ice time with Brooks Orpik and they were a formidable pairing during the postseason – especially the second round series against the New York Rangers.


WATCH: Carlson reflects on his World Juniors game-winning goal back in 2010

In past seasons, Mike Green was the most offensive-minded D-Man in the Caps’ ranks but with Green likely leaving in the summer, Carlson’s stats show that he’s got the goal-scoring chops to step up and put more than 20 in the back of the net in future seasons. During the regular season, Carlson racked up a career-high 12 goals and a career-high 43 points – and I think he hit the post about 10 times. Those 55 total points tied him with Nashville’s Roman Josi for fifth on the NHL points chart for defensemen.

Carlson’s career regular season stats:

Carlson Credits Barry Trotz

As with many other Washington Capitals players this term, the introduction of Barry Trotz as head coach this season is a major reason why Carlson’s stats were the best of his NHL career. Carlson was quick to credit his new coach this season with the team’s better all-around showing.

“From day one, he set a standard, and he changed a lot about our group that I think was really positive,” said Carlson last week. “Everyone responded well. It took a little while for it to firmly set in, but everyone responded well. He did a great job with us throughout the whole season, and I’m looking forward to next year to maybe change a few things and do what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to win.”

John Carlson Washington Capitals
John Carlson hasn’t missed a game for the Washington Capitals in five years. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Will Carlson step up the goal-scoring next season? Yes, when Green moves on I see no reason why he can’t improve on fifth on the D-man points chart and edge towards the highest-scoring mark just as Green did in 2008-09.

For now, Carlson is entering his prime years – just like a couple of other Capitals. He’s a big reason why the Capitals had a successful regular season, and he’s a big part of the Capitals’ future plans.