John Carlson entered the season kind of under the radar. Since Matt Niskanen joined the Washington Capitals 3 years ago, he has taken the #1RHD (right handed defensemen). Carlson has been prevalent, still playing top power play time, but he’s sometimes forgotten. Many wouldn’t notice that this is the final year of his contract before he enters free agency for the first time in his career. That means this is a big year for Carlson, as he needs to have a great year to earn the biggest contract of his career.
Now with Matt Niskanen out on Long Term Injured Reserve, it opens up a big chance for Carlson to prove future employers that he can be trusted to be the #1 guy. And whether it’s in Washington or not, the Capitals really need Carlson to be the new #1 guy. In a very tough Metro Division, every point counts even this early in the season.
The Tuesday night game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the first big test for Carlson in the 0-2 loss. “He put a lot of minutes in.” head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. Carlson actually logged 27:33 to be exact. One of the highest in his career. Carlson doesn’t expect that number to come down anytime soon.
“He’s done that in the past, he’s more than capable of doing it.” goalie Braden Holtby assured, “He’s skating well now, he looks comfortable with whoever he’s partnered with. He’s taking on a bigger leadership role with the young guys coming in and feeling comfortable.”
Carlson has taken rookie Christian Djoos under his wing, as they spent a lot of time with each other this season, and will probably do so indefinitely.
“You get more minutes, you don’t just want to float through them.” Carlson said, “I need to keep the pedal down all the time and elevate my game further every single second for those minutes I’m getting.” If the Capitals want to survive the Metro Division while Niskanen is out, they need that mentality from Carlson.
Carlson’s time on ice will be an interesting stat to keep an eye on for the next month. Obviously, the Capitals would love to play him more and more, but he is only one player and that can be taxing. The Capitals next two games are back-to-back and will be a huge test for Carlson. If Carlson can’t reach the next level, the Capitals could be in trouble. As Holtby put it, “He’s obviously a huge part of Caps success.”
By Luke Adomanis