John Carlson has been a pillar of the Washington Capitals’ defensive unit for the past 12 years, and is still getting recognition league-wide for his talent. NHL Network has ranked Carlson as the league’s 36th-best player heading into the 2021 season, as part of their top 50 players countdown.
Carlson, 31, has spent his entire professional career in D.C. after the Capitals drafted him with the 27th overall pick in 2008. Most recently, he posted 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) for the Caps this past season over 52 games, good enough for fifth among the league’s defensemen.
Since the 2017-18 season, Carlson has led all D-men in the NHL with 204 assists and 257 points. Washington has depended on his solid defending, special teams ability, and nose for the puck for over a decade.
“He’s just got a great offensive mind. He understands time and space, where to attack it, where guys want the puck, where the opposition might be vulnerable,” said NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson of No. 74 in red. “You watch him play, he makes so many good decisions, and you combine that with the excellent skill he has with the puck to go along with it.”
Carlson’s magnum opus in the professional ranks came in 2018, when he was a crucial aspect of Washington’s Stanley Cup-winning squad. He led all defensemen in points during that postseason run.
Carlson ranks just below fellow defenders Dougie Hamilton (Devils, No. 34), Miro Heiskanen (Stars, No. 32) and Charlie McAvoy (Bruins, No. 31) on the top-50 list. Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are presumed locks to be included higher in the rankings once NHL Network releases the top 30 players, which will be announced in groups of 10 over the coming weeks.