Friday, February 08, 2013

Carlson's Chance In Sochi

Carlson celebrates his game winning OT goal vs. Canada in 2010
In the February issue of USA Hockey Magazine, they featured their picks for 2014's Team USA to represent in Sochi at the Winter Olympics. The games officially open February 6, 2014, a year from now. On that list to represent the United States is a Washington Capitals' defender, John Carlson.
Our Take: Team USA’s youngest defenseman will also provide the red, white and blue with a presence along the blue line. The 6-foot-3 Carlson is one of the league’s up and coming defensemen.
There is still a long way to go to see if any NHL players will even be allowed to go to Sochi, but Carlson would be on the short list of defensemen to make America's team. He has international experience from the World Junior Championship in 2010. His gold medal winning overtime goal against team Canada (in Canada) has endeared himself to USA hockey fans and deserves consideration by Team USA's brass to take him to Russia.

His quickness and good puck handling skills are a plus for any team. Carlson is a shining beacon to the USA developmental program that is beginning to pour out championship teams. The USA junior program has cranked out two gold medals in the last four years, four medals (2g, 2b) since 2007. The Olympic men's hockey program has also benefited by winning silver in Vancouver just three years ago.

But ask John Carlson about being on the short list to make the trip to Russia and it is as far from his mind as Sochi is to Washington, D.C.

"Obviously everyone wants to play there, it would be great," Carlson said after practice Friday. "But, I am just trying to keep my head here right now and work as hard as I can everyday try to help make this team (Capitals) better. I think that is everyone's goal in here, we don't need any distractions."

Carlson's talents have been overshadowed this year by a tough losing streak with the Capitals. He has been on the ice for at least a goal against in every game of the season thus far, although not all of the blame could fall on him. For him, Sochi is this far off thing and he seems content to keep it right there.

"We need to stay focused to what is ahead of us right now."

If the budding defenseman needed any advice, he does have another once budding defenseman just four stalls down from him in Tom Poti to give him guidance.

"It is a great experience," Poti said of his time he played at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "You get to meet all the different athletes from different countries and see how they train and how they get prepared for their events."

Poti at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics
Poti was a young defenseman playing for the Edmonton Oilers at the time. Like Carlson, Poti also came up the ranks through the World Junior Championships playing in 1995 and again in 1996. On an Olympic team that featured some of the all time USA greats like Phil Housley, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, Brett Hull, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk (just to name a few), the stacked team won silver.

They lost to an equally stacked Canadian team featuring Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Martin Brodeur, Jarome Iginla and Brendan Shanahan (just to name a few).

"They were a pretty good squad," Poti recalled. "We had a great team as well. We went 7-0 in the preliminary round and the only game we lost was the gold medal game. It was frustrating to lose to those guys but we gave it our best shot.

"If [Carlson] gets the chance to go just embrace it, have a blast with it. He will remember every second of it."

Both Team USA and the Washington Capitals could sure use some of that explosive quickness and hard shot from the point. What Carlson can take out from his international experience does help him here in the NHL.

"Every new league you play in, it's different, a different style of hockey," Carlson said. "You take a lot out of it and also you play against a lot of really good players."

While the prospect of getting that opportunity to represent his country in Russia excites the young defenseman, Carlson remains committed to his team here in DC. The 2014 Olympics are a year away after all.

"I mean, I don't think anyone wouldn't [be excited to make the team]," Carlson smirked. "It would be awesome."

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