When I laid out how I thought the Capitals’ lines would look after their flurry of trades last week, I failed to include John Carlson. He was called up at some point that Wednesday. It didn’t make the Post’s blog until two days later and it’s still not on ESPNs transaction log. Washington has been calling up and sending down John Carlson and Karl Alzner regularly throughout the year, and having traded Brian Pothier while Joe Corvo wasn’t ready to play I assumed Carlson was simply needed for depth. At that point Carlson was +6 with an assist in 7 NHL games, and +37 with 39 points in 48 games in Hershey. Since that call up he’s +2 with an assist in 5 games in eight nights, and he looks entrenched as the third pair right defenseman.
He took on legendary status in January. January 5 he scored the overtime game winner against Canada to give the world junior championship to the United States on a 2 on 1 break. This came seven months after he was assigned to Hershey in the middle of the AHL playoffs and helped win the Calder Cup. And that came about a year after George McPhee parlayed a solid opening round playoff series against the Flyers by former first round pick Steve Eminger into a first round pick from Philly.
Carlson was the 27th player and 12th defenseman drafted in 08, a product of the ludicrous depth on defense that year. Four of the first five picks were blueliners, in most drafts he likely would have gone in the teens. Although born in New England he was described by the analysts as a Jersey boy, and seeing his mother’s teased hair seemed confirmation. In the 2008 preseason he caught my eye with a few big hits and by looking big around the puck. Whenever he’s around the play he seems to expand – head up, good posture, arms extended on defense without looking lanky; head up, stick on the ice, ready to take a hit on offense. He still plays big and with an edge. His passing has a ways to go but he generally makes the right decision.
Miscellaneous: Once Carlson played his 10th NHL game this year it brought him one year closer to restricted free agency by this year counting toward his rookie contract, but he won’t reach the 40 game threshold to get one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Also, he’ll likely play more than 25 games and won’t be eligible for the Calder… Backstrom is one assist from joining Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny as the only players to record 55 assists in their first three seasons and has joined Ovechkin, Mike Gartner, and Denis Maruk as the only Capitals to have back-to-back 80 point seasons, which is kind of embarrassing for the Capitals franchise… With the exception of Ovechkin, on most nights all of Washington’s left wings, centers, and left defensemen are left-handed shots, and all of their right wings and right defensemen are right-handed shots…
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.