When the Capitals drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the expectation for defenseman Karl Alzner wasn’t for him to become an offensive weapon like then-Capitals defenseman Mike Green.
The goal for the 6’2″, 214-pound Alzner was to evolve into a responsible defensive-minded rearguard who could block shots, kill penalties, and be a defensive force for the team. Nearly nine years later, Alzner has become the anchor of the Washington defense. Although Alzner has been in the NHL for eight seasons, he’s still only 27-years old. With 503 NHL games already under his belt, Alzner is the longest-tenured Capitals defenseman and his progression into the team’s best defensive defenseman has been spectacular. Earlier this season, he became the Capitals’ iron man when he played in his 422nd consecutive game.
While fellow defensive-minded blueliner Brooks Orpik is a very good shutdown defenseman, Alzner has improved his all-around play since the arrival of defense coach Todd Reirden. Last season, he set a career-high in goals and points in 82 games with five and 21, respectively. He’s already matched his point total this season in just 76 games with a new career-high in assists with 17 and has four goals. This puts him on pace for 22 points (four goals, 18 assists).
But his defensive prowess has made him, arguably, one of the league’s best shutdown defenders. He currently ranks third in the NHL, and first on the Capitals in blocked shots with 192 blocks and is a plus-17. He has averaged 21:22 of ice time this season. He has also been one of Washington’s hardest working penalty killers and is used in all defensive situations by head coach Barry Trotz.
One of the Capitals’ most successful first-round picks in the last decade, Alzner has been the epitome of an elite defensive defenseman. With one more season left on his current contract, one can be sure that the Caps will do whatever it takes to keep their best defensive blueliner around for the long-term.
By Michael Fleetwood