He is coming off of his best season as a Capital, a season in which he matured, and played bigger and older than his young age of 23. Of course, it was a shortened season, but a tally of six goals and 16 assists is pretty good over 48 games, as was his plus/minus rating of plus-11.
Carlson first made headlines in Jan. 2010 at the World Junior Hockey Championships. His sublime gold medal winning goal in overtime against Canada (giving the United States a 6-5 victory) was a beautiful and cheeky piece of powerful improvisation. He stared straight at a teammate to his right while smashing the puck home to start the rapturous celebration.
Since that time, Carlson has been ever-present for the Caps over three seasons. He’s only racked up 23 goals in his 234 NHL games, but he could become a more offense-leaning defenseman, if given the chance. He is extremely dangerous just inside the blue line, and that’s where most of his goals come from.
He’s adaptable, commanding and unashamedly fierce on the ice, and he goes into every check with the same power as his more famous teammate, Alex Ovechkin. Well, almost the same. Let’s face it, Ovechkin is a little bigger and heavier, but not by much.
Carlson’s passion for winning is up there with Ovie’s, however, and he proves it each time he takes to the ice. And, he takes to the ice a lot. Last season, his ice time average clocked in at a whopping 23:01. Comparatively, his usual defensive partners, Karl Alzner and John Erskine, put up averages of 20:57 and 18:28, respectively.
Carlson is also currently in the mix to make the U.S. Olympic squad. Whether he makes the final cut or not, he’s been playing alongside his usual foes this past week during the tryouts for Dan Bylsma’s squad. New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan recently doled out some praise for the young Capital.
“For such a big guy, the way he moves his feet, it’s tough to play against him,” Callahan told CBS. “He’s strong. It’s good to have him on my side [for a change].”
In 2013-14, the Capitals will look to Carlson to mature even further, continue to be hot on the power play and the penalty kill, and take a few more shots. A magnificent season is in the cards for Carlson, who has it in him to be an all-time great.
G.J. Cosker is a Washington Capitals writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.