When Capitals defenseman John Carlson last donned a USA sweater, he was mobbed by his teammates after he scored the gold-medal- clinching goal in the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Since then, Carlson has developed into a reliable all-around defenseman for Washington. With Team USA expected to challenge for Olympic gold next February in Sochi, Russia, he would love nothing more than to add to his collection.
“A lifetime memory, for sure,” Carlson said Monday during the first day of USA Hockey’s two-day Olympic orientation camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was 3 and that would be real special.”
The 23-year-old was one of 48 total players and 18 defensemen invited to this week’s camp. The preliminary roster will be whittled down to 25 and announced around Jan. 1.
About seven or eight of those 25 will be defensemen. Realistically, however, only three or four spots are likely to be available as Minnesota’s Ryan Suter, Columbus’ Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh’s Paul Martin and the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh are all projected locks.
Team USA general manager David Poile said Monday that his selection committee will rely heavily on players’ performance during the first three months of the NHL season when forming the roster. Carlson has struggled at the start in recent seasons, so he’ll have to buck that trend to give himself a chance to earn a spot.
“[I’ll] try not to think about it, really,” Carlson said when asked about impressing USA Hockey’s brain trust during the early months of the season. “Just try to help my team do what we do, and hopefully, at the end of the day, that’s good enough.”
Those tasked with managing and coaching Team USA spoke highly of Carlson this week. Poile said Carlson has an “excellent chance” to make the team, while coach Dan Bylsma, accustomed to seeing Carlson matched up against his top offensive threats in Pittsburgh, praised him for his all-around ability.
“He’s a younger guy, but he’s not too far off in the NHL, his coach believes, of being a Norris Trophy type of player, and that’s saying a lot from Adam Oates,” Bylsma said. “He’s a guy who is certainly in consideration to be a big part of this defense.”