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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 9 John Carlson

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 9 John Carlson

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

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

RELATED: BURAKOVSKY DEMOTED TO THIRD LINE

Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesar's Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals at Red Wings will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals at Red Wings game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals (3-3-1) take on the Red Wings (4-3-0) Friday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Little Caesars's Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington Plus following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Capitals @ Red Wings
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps OverTime
 

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals-Red Wings game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Tom Wilson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac (injured), Matt Niskanen (LTIR)

CAPITALS-RED WINGS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.