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Carlson Continues to Excel Under the Radar
For Washington’s John Carlson, the last couple of seasons have seen him grow into one of the best defensemen in the league. After five goals and 20 points in 24 games in last season’s playoffs, and a pivotal role in the Capitals’ Stanley Cup winning run, Carlson was rewarded with an eight-year, $64 million contract, making him the second highest paid player on the team behind Alex Ovechkin.
Despite Carlson’s stellar season, scintillating postseason and 68-point tally in 2017/18, he an All Star game spot and (much to the disappointment of then coach Barry Trotz) was not nominated for the Norris Trophy.
How does Carlson keep tallying those points and recording multi-point nights and somehow remain under the radar of many teams, making him one of the league’s most dangerous defensemen and one of the Caps’ biggest weapons?
Carlson has averaged 26 minutes of ice time in the last five games and has already amassed five goals and 14 points in the first 10 games of this season. Prior to the games against Edmonton and Calgary, Carlson led the league’s defensemen in goals ahead of Dallas’ John Klingberg, Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and Ottawa’s Maxime Lajoie. When speaking with the Washington Post several weeks ago, teammate Nicklas Backstrom said, “if you look around the league and look at all the defensemen, John Carlson is the guy that I would pick first. The work he does on a nightly basis, no-one else does,”
Carlson has remarkable game sense. Along with his impressive speed, he has the ability to read the game in a way that is unique, with an acute awareness. His set up of Kuznetsov’s one timer against Vancouver worked because of his faked shot and dish. Carlson’s awareness of positioning and space is highly entertaining to watch and is thus far putting him in early Norris contention.
For now, teams need to stand up and pay attention. Carlson is a guy who can play great two-way hockey. His defensive prowess is something to behold and he has the ability to jump up onto offence and is strong close in on net. For now, we will wait to see what the long season brings for Carlson but he is certainly on Norris watch in the early days of this season.