by PuckStopsHere on 12/19/11 at 05:34 PM ET
It is interesting to try to identify Hall of Fame track players as early as possible in their career. These are players who project to have Hall of Fame careers. One player who appears to be on such a track that few have spoken of in this manner is John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
Carlson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the late first round in 2008. He was first noticed by most hockey fans in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships. He was an alternate captain of the gold medal winning US team. He scored the gold medal winning goal in overtime and was named to the tournament all star team. He made his NHL debut later in 2010. By the 2010 playoffs he was fulfilling a significant role on the Capitals defence.
Last season was his official rookie season. I argue that he should have been named rookie of the year last season. Carlson did not have the same offensive numbers as the eventual nominees Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner. In part this is because he is a defenceman. He was productive offensively with 37 points and posted a +21 +/- rating in his rookie year. He played a shutdown role for the Capitals and was regularly lined up against the best opposition players available. However since he was the fourth highest scoring rookie defenceman behind Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and PK Subban he was often overlooked and did not appear as a Calder Trophy nominee despite being the clearly best defensive player in last year’s rookie class.
This season he has continued his strong defensive play and is increasing his offensive abilities. His 20 points have him tied for eleventh among the top scoring defencemen in the NHL so far this year. He is putting up numbers similar to longtime all star defencemen such as Duncan Keith and Dion Phaneuf.
It is certainly possible that John Carlson will not wind up having a Hall of Fame level career. He has many more years to play before that happens, but he is off to an impressive start. Many future hall of fame defencemen have not had as impressive a first season and a half in their careers. Carlson compares very well to that group. I think he is currently on a Hall of Fame track.
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