Washington Capitals’ standout defenseman John Carlson was able to envision his dream.
“I remember four years ago, when I got sent down for the Olympic break, I said ‘that’d be cool if I could make the next one,” the 24-year-old Carlson said.
Carlson, who was born in Natick, Mass., but grew up in Colonia, N.J., will represent the U.S. on an Olympic stage for the first time during the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Team USA opens play Feb. 13 against Slovakia.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Carlson said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a very cool experience.”
Carlson, one of the most promising young defensemen in the National Hockey League, learned his fate from his couch, watching the announcement of the U.S. Olympic roster on television following the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto.
That announcement put the wheels in motion for a whirlwind of events for the first Capitals’ player to represent the U.S. in Olympic competition. Carlson conducted a press conference at the White House, was honored during a Washington Wizards NBA game and later was recognized by teammates and the organization the following day at practice.
“It was a cool experience,” Carlson said, adding, “I was just happy making the team, so nothing else really mattered.”
Carlson, in his fourth full NHL season, has emerged as the Capitals’ top defenseman, playing all 48 games during last year’s lockout-shortened season and a full 82-game slate the prior two years. He has played in all of the Capitals’ games this season, leading the team in average ice time, while also earning significant special teams’ minutes. Carlson leads the league in average short-handed time on ice and sees nearly three minutes per game on the power play.
“Everyone’s goal is to play in all situations and stuff like that,” Carlson said. “It’s something I’ve gotten a taste of. That’s what happens in hockey. I’ve always wanted to do that, I think I’m capable of doing it, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it.”
His head coach agrees.
Adam Oates, in his second year leading the Capitals, lauded his young defenseman, who has stepped up after teammate Mike Green has struggled the past several seasons with injuries.
“I think he’s one of the better defensemen in the league,” Oates said. “He’s shown signs of it the last few years and just grown with his responsibilities and every little thing you’ve added, he’s taken on and handled.
“One of the things that obviously took him to another level was last year, when we lost Mike Green to injury, and because of that, we threw the burden on [Carlson], added more responsibilities and he’s shown the hockey world he can handle it.”
Now, Carlson’s ready to shine on the world stage.
He’s used to the international exposure, having served as the alternate captain for the U.S. during the 2010 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Moreover, Carlson netted the game-winning goal in overtime during the gold-medal game, helping the U.S. win its second gold medal, and first since 2004, following a 6-5 victory against Canada.
“It was the biggest goal I ever scored,” Carlson said. “Any time you can be part of a winning team like that is always great for your development, especially as a young guy.
“I thought it helped immensely, so anytime you have that kind of experience you can draw from that.”
Carlson hopes that experience leads to another gold medal for Team USA.
“Everyone’s there for a reason and that’s to win,” Carlson said. “Everyone knows what it takes. They’ve been around long enough to figure it out, and it’s our job to make that happen.
“We have a great team and we certainly know what our goal is.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.