Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today’s player: No. 9 John Carlson
When you're a team with only three top-four defensemen, all three of those players are going to be pretty important to your season. But John Carlson's impact is not just about what he brings defensively. It's also about his offensive production.
There are not many things the Capitals did not do well last season in another dominant run to a Presidents' Trophy. One stat in which they ranked near the bottom, however, was goals from their blue line. Washington got only 29 goals from their defensemen, good for only 26th in the NHL. Brent Burns scored 29 goals by himself 2016-17. Excluding the lockout-shortened season, that's the fewest Washington has gotten from its defense since 2010-11.
Carlson's production was down as well with just 37 points in 72 games, the lowest point total for him since 2013-14. He managed 39 points in the season before despite playing in only 56 games that season.
The Caps lost a lot of offensive production in the summer. The responsibility for making up those goals will fall largely on the offense's shoulders, but it is clear they need more production from their blue line as well. As the defense's best offensive weapon and a key piece of the power play, the pressure is on for Carlson to spark the blue line's offensive production.
But that may be difficult considering we do not know who Carlson's partner will be this season. While the team is set on the top pair with Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen, there's no clear answer as to who will be skating alongside Carlson. The team looks poised for a training camp battle between prospects Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Tyler Lewington among others and veterans Aaron Ness and Jyrki Jokipakka. Regardless of who wins the job out of camp, it would not be surprising to see a rotation of sorts on that pair. That will present an added challenge to Carlson who will have to adjust to a new partner night in and night out. How well he is able to do that will be a major factor in determining just how good the Caps' defense is this season.
And, oh yeah, it's also a contract year. There's a lot on the line for Carlson in 2017-18.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik