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The Odyssey: An Adam Carlson Story
via the Mavericks
Goalie prospect Adam Carlson had a crazy year. He played for four different teams, the Hershey Bears (AHL), the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL), the Indy Fuel (ECHL) and the Kansas City Mavericks (ECHL). Carlson traveled well over 3,000 miles this year.
“There’s no such thing as unpacking for me this year,” Carlson said in a phone interview in mid April when he was in Hershey. Carlson started the year in Hershey as both Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley were recovering from injuries, something he was not expecting. Carlson was not the only goalie there that was expecting to be in South Carolina, goalie Parker Milner was there as well.
Carlson said he found out he was going to start the year in Hershey, “pretty much as soon as everyone else did” and because of the injuries, it was a “day-to-day thing for the first two months of the year” Carlson got some relief on October 31 when Hershey sent down Milner and kept him around for another two weeks.
“I was pretty excited about it, but at the same time, I’ve learned over the past couple years of being pro, that you can’t get too high or too low,” Carlson said of being one of the last guys in Hershey.
However, Carlson’s season took a turn on November 19. In is first game for South Carolina, Carlson left the game after the second period with an injury. That injury was a torn right groin. Carlson had an interesting approach to the injury.
“[I] don’t really know how bad it was, but it took me out for a solid month, month and a half,” Carlson said. “I don’t want to say it was a good thing, but it was a learning experience for me. Everything happens for a reason, that taught me a lot about myself, my body and how I need to treat the game and respect my body because of the game. An injury also derailed Carlson’s rookie season, so this year, he knew how to attack it.
“I knew how to attack it. I knew the effort that I needed to put in every single day,” he said. “Once I turned 23, I couldn’t just walk into the rink and show up.”
Carlson’s next game was January 6, a relief appearance where he allowed just one goal in 54 minutes. Carlson said he didn’t feel rusty heading into the game.
“I was pretty confident about my game. It was just getting back into the groove, of skating every single day. [The ECHL] is a bit different than [the AHL]. Especially down in [South Carolina] with the temperatures, you’re playing in warm rinks every single day. Growing up in Minnesota, I’m used to freezing my butt off on a daily basis. Going in and sweating 10 pounds a day, that’s the hard part, to keep up with the weight, but I felt pretty confident about my game, and things just weren’t working out down there for me.”
Carlson would get his first and only win with the Stingrays on January 28 making 25 saves and allowing a single goal. It was Carlson’s fifth game of the year. A few days later, January 31, Carlson was re-assigned from South Carolina to the Indy Fuel. Carlson was the one that orchestrated the move.
“I went up. That was all on me. I asked for that and, you know, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my career. Its what I needed to do to keep on playing, and I needed games. I only got in 23 [in 2016-17] down in Charleston, I wanted more. I needed more for my career. With [2018-18] being a contract year, I needed as many games as I could under my belt if I wanted to re-sign. I had to do what I had to do to get those games in.
Indy is the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, who had a very bad goaltending issue this year do to injuries. As a result, the plan was for Carlson to stay in Indy the whole year.
“We were expecting to have me play there the whole year but, they ended up getting both of their goalies who were up in the [AHL], back on the same day, (2/8) which happened to be four or five days after I had moved all of my stuff from Charleston to Indy, and it was just one of those things were I go back to a third string on an ECHL team and I had to do what was best for my career. I didn’t want to leave Indy at all, I didn’t want to leave South Carolina either, both great programs, both great players, great everything, but for my career I needed to make moves and get somewhere where I needed to play.”
Carlson’s next stop was to the Kansas City Mavericks. He was re-assigned there on February 16. Sometimes, life is all about timing, and the timing for Carlson could not have been better.
“I was only supposed to be there for a week and a half, and get three games in, they ended up having their [goalies] be gone for an extra 33 days. Which gave me an opportunity to be on the team after the trade deadline, which forced them to keep me on the roster, given that I’m on an NHL deal, and with that, I was able to take the starting spot and start running with it.”
Carlson’s first game for Kansas City was a shootout loss to Indy, but Carlson picked up his first win for the Mavericks a few games later after suffering some narrow defeats that were not really on him. Carlson’s win was the first of seven straight decisions where he earned the Mavericks at least one point and where he allowed no more than three goals a game including a 39 save performance against the Fort Wayne Komets and then a 34 save performance in an overtime loss against the Idaho Steelheads.
Carlson finished his ECHL campaign with a 6-3-4 record, but went 5-1-3 with a 2.07 GAA and .922 save percentage in nine games for Kansas City once he got consistent playing time. After this stretch, Carlson was called-up to Hershey and the organization took notice.
“Adam came in and competed every day, a high-character addition to our room. He battled in net and won games for us, provided a big boost for our team when we needed one,” said Mavericks head coach John-Scott Dickson.
“Everyone up here in Hershey and [the] Capitals noticed that, and I guess I earned a spot up here, for the call-up.”
Carlson’s future is uncertain as he did not receive a qualifying offer from the Capitals making him a un-restricted free agent. One thing was certain about Carlson’s future however, he will continue to work as hard as he can to realize his dream of playing in the NHL. This season proved he will do what it takes to get there.