Like many American hockey fans, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson watched the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. But, unlike most Americans, Carlson heard his name called as one of the 25 members of the 2014 United States Olympic Men’s Hockey Team following the contest on NBC. And when he heard it on his TV that afternoon, Carlson’s reaction was priceless.
“They didn’t tell us before the announcement, so I was watching like everybody else and I was really nervous,” Carlson said. “It was an awesome result, but man, was it nerve-racking for me, watching it at home.”
Carlson, who lived with his family in Colonia and played for one season at St. Joseph (Met.), scored 12 goals and 19 points for the Falcons. After the 2004-05 season, Carlson focused solely on junior hockey with the New Jersey Rockets, before heading to the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League in 2007-08. After a strong showing with the Ice – 12 goals, 31 assists – the Capitals selected Carlson with the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut on Nov. 21, 2009 and has been a constant force on the Washington blue line since.
“He’s a winner everywhere he went. He stayed one year with us; I wish he could have stayed for four, but you can understand why he moved on,” former St. Joseph head coach Pete Kolodney said. “He had the talent and he was above the norm. He’s clearly made the most of his opportunity since getting to Washington. Sometimes I can’t believe it when I see him in interviews. So to this day, it’s hard to believe and personally, I was only a small part of his development and he was blessed with skills and size. He’s made the most of it.”
Kolodney, who coached at St. Joseph from 1986-87 through the 2006-07 season, said that he knew that Carlson was something special in the 2004-05 campaign, when the Falcons went 10-9-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Tournament.
“Him being named to the Olympic team is just consistent with what John’s experiences have been,” Kolodney said. “He’s a winner; he scored the game-winner at the 2010 World Championships, and when he went to Hershey (in the American Hockey League) with the Capitals’ farm team and they won the Calder Cup. He’ll be a contributor in Sochi for the USA, for sure.”
For Team USA, Carlson, who shoots from the right side, could be paired with Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik, although he hasn’t been told with whom he’ll skate on the American blue line.
Friday night, Washington made its first of two trips to New Jersey of the season, allowing Carlson to play in front of friends and family in the Garden State. He was on the ice for more than 23 minutes and had five shots on goal in the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the Devils. For the season, Carlson is on pace to set new career-highs in goals, assists and points, all while playing more minutes than he has at any point in his NHL career.
Making the Olympic team from of New Jersey is something that Carlson is especially proud of, knowing he’s inspired kids from all over the state to keep pushing and to never give up.
“I think it’s great for the state of New Jersey and there are so many players coming out of here now and it’s great to see. I’m happy to be on the Olympic team,” he said. “It’s good to see guys like me and James van Riemsdyk (Christian Brothers Academy) have made the team and we’re supplying a blueprint and everyone wants to be the next kid and it’s inspiring for me to be someone kids look up to like that.”