Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
Over the summer, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was invited to Team USA’s orientation camp held at the Caps’ practice facility in Ballston, Virginia. At that point in time, Carlson was a bit of an afterthought for the team: he was arguably there more to excite the hometown fans than actually challenge for a roster spot.
Four months later, Carlson, after taking advantage of more opportunity due to injuries on the Caps blue line, was named to Team USA’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The announcement was made on NBC after the Winter Classic.
The accomplishment is well earned. The 23-year-old Natick, Massachusetts-native (who spent most of his childhood living in New Jersey) is tied for second amongst American-born NHL defenseman with 7 goals. Only the Boston Bruins’ Torey Krug (8) has more. He also ranks 14th in points (15) and fifth in ice time (24:41).
A few days before the announcement, head coach Adam Oates was asked if Carlson deserved a spot. He was not shy about what he thought. “To me, that’s an easy answer,” Oates said to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley. “He should be on it because he’s one of the best defensemen in the league.”
When I spoke to Caps assistant coach Calle Johansson one-on-one after practice on Saturday, he was even stronger with his words.
“Absolutely,” when I asked if Carlson should make the team. “No doubt about it. If there are six D better than him, or three on the right side, whatever you want to say, I’d be shocked.”
“I see this guy play everyday and there won’t be three better defensemen than John Carlson in this league,” Johansson concluded.
Now the next question is: will Carlson actually get a jersey during the games? That answer will be known soon enough, but here’s hoping, if he gets an opportunity, Carly has another gold medal goal on his stick this year.