As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 6: John Carlson, Defense
2014-15 Salary: $4 million [$3.966 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 10 goals, 27 assists, 37 points, minus-3, 22 penalty minutes, 24:30 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 82 games, 13 goals, 33 assists, 46 points, plus-10, 20 penalty minutes, 23:50 average ice time
Analysis: Entering his prime years, Carlson is rounding into one of the NHL’s top overall defensemen, blending his size and defensive instincts with an increased confidence in consistently producing offense. Carlson’s ice time and responsibilities have increased in each of the last two seasons, in part because of necessity [due to Mike Green’s injuries] and in part because of improvements in his overall game. Carlson set career highs in goals , power-play goals , shots  and ice time [24:30] but even Caps general manager Brian MacLellan admitted Carlson was probably overused last season and would have benefitted from more depth on the blue line. With the additions of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen the Caps now have that depth, which should bring Carlson’s ice time down while increasing his productivity and his plus-minus. If paired with Orpik, Carlson will again be counted on as a shut-down defenseman who can also produce offensively while on the ice with offensive players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Often overlooked, Carlson has also been an Iron Man for the Capitals, playing in all 294 games over the past four seasons. Carlson’s greatest attribute is his positional play, but he can play with a bit more edge to his game and show a little more confidence in his shot, which is hard and accurate and capable of keeping teams away from shadowing Ovechkin. With new defensive coach Todd Reirden on staff, look for Carlson to take another step in his development and challenge Niskanen for the scoring lead among Caps defensemen.