By Andy Palm, Columnist
The NHL season is still very new; however, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson has made an early statement about his status amongst his peers in the league. Ever since he entered the league in 2009, the hockey world has known Carlson for his consistency on both ends of the ice, but he always seemed to be left out of the elite conversation.
In the past three seasons, Carlson has left no doubt that he belongs in those talks, and now he may be looking at his best professional season so far. Carlson’s production offensively is a pivotal part of the Capitals success every season. Carlson can do a little bit of everything, he’s one of the few defensemen who can equally contribute on offense and defense.
Last season, Carlson was an all-star and finished in the top five amongst defensemen in points scored. Unfortunately, Carlson fell short of the Norris trophy honor for best defenseman in the NHL. In fact, he wasn’t even a finalist.
Carlson’s deserving of the Norris Trophy has to do with more than just statistics. Carlson has a bit more responsibility on ice than most defenders. Although he is a defenseman, the way Washington’s system works, Carlson is looked at for a large portion of the Capitals offensive production.
He is the point man for the power play, where he effectively shoots and distributes the puck. Without Carlson, left winger Alex Ovechkin’s effectiveness would take a dip. Carlson’s shot is just as powerful as Ovechkin’s, having him at the top of the ice on the power play makes a huge difference. Carlson is also a terrific passer, on the power play and at regular strength. Carlson’s ability to read the ice is very hard to come by at the defensive position.
The fact that Carlson has not really come close to winning the Norris trophy yet is somewhat baffling. Capitals analyst Alan May has even suggested the reason behind it may be the fact that Carlson is from the U.S. May believes there is a bias against American players when it comes to winning individual awards.
This season, Carlson is demanding the attention of the league. He is tied for the league lead in points with 17, the only other player to have that many is Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid. Coming off a three-point night in a victory over the New York Rangers, Carlson is poised to finally find himself as at least a finalist for defenseman of the year.
On top of the on-ice production, Carlson also earned the Alternate Captain badge this season. He continues to produce and his role on the Caps seems to only get bigger, it’s time for Carlson to get the recognition he deserves.