It has been quite a year for NHL rookies so far and many questions surround who should be nominated for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Best Rookie. Now, an argument can be made for a handful of them, but here’s my case for the Washington Capitals’ freshman defenseman, John Carlson.
The 21 year old Carlson was born in Massachusetts, but spent much of his youth in New Jersey. Many hockey fans know him as the hero for Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where he scored the game-winning overtime goal of the Gold Medal game to help defeat Team Canada 6-5. As the Caps first round choice (27th overall) in 2008, Carlson got his first taste of the NHL last season in a playoff round match-up against the Montreal Canadiens that saw the top seeded Caps fall in 7 games. Though short, Carlson showed promise in those few playoff games.
This season, Carlson has been a rock on the Capitals blue line. Many hockey insiders consider defense to be the hardest position to jump in to and be successful at in the NHL. His stats may not be gaudy, but they’re nothing to frown upon either. In 73 games played this season, he has 6 goals, 26 assists, for 32 points and a plus-18. In addition, Carlson leads the Caps and NHL rookie defensemen in blocked shots and he is second among NHL rookies in Time on Ice. He has been able to accomplish all of this while playing on a playoff bound team lining up against opponent’s elite lines. Not to mention, he has filled in very nicely for the injured Norris Finalist, Mike Green, while the Caps continue to ascend toward the top spot in the Eastern Conference. So, the kid has to be doing something right.
In my opinion, Carlson, Couture, Crawford and Skinner should be the front-runners in the race for the Calder Trophy. I understand Grabner has 30 goals, but his big goal output didn’t show until the season was pretty much lost for the lowly Islanders