Carlson named to U.S. Olympic team

Carlson named to U.S. Olympic team
January 1, 2014, 4:45 pm
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Winning gold the goal for Carlson

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders in the second period at Verizon Center.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Back in July, when Capitals defenseman John Carlson was one of 48 players invited to Team USA’s Olympic orientation camp, he said it would be “unreal” to make the final 25-man roster.

He also thought the idea of playing in the Olympics was “pretty far-fetched.”

The 23-year-old native of Natick , Mass., might need to change those adjectives now that he’s been named to the U.S. Olympic team that will participate in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi Russia.

Carlson was one of eight defensemen chosen by a selection committee headed by Nashville Predators and former Capitals general manager David Poile. The announcement was made following today’s Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It’s another feather in your cap,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said when asked about the benefits Carlson can reap from representing his country. “[It means] you’ve moved up a notch maybe, from being a regular player to being regarded as a special player.

“You mature. You get better. Some guys plateau, some guys get better. He’s gotten better and better. He’s been able to handle the responsibility. He’s ahead of the curve and progressing and good for him.”

In 40 games for the Capitals this season, his fifth in the NHL, Carlson has seven goals and eight assists and leads the Capitals in average ice time per game at 24:41.

“Obviously, I can still get better,” he said, “but this is the biggest year in terms of [responsibility]. I've always played a decent amount and against top players, but I feel like a little more onus is upon me now and I like it and I think I’ve done a good job, but I know I can certainly get better, too.”

Before making his selections, Poile said he would take into account player’s international experience. And while Carlson has never played in the Olympics, he scored two goals, including the overtime game-winner against Canada, in the 2010 World Hockey Championships.

Carlson’s skating ability and power-play proficiency – the Caps rank second in the NHL on the man-advantage – could work to his advantage on the larger ice surface that will be used in Sochi, where rinks will be 15 feet wider than the ones used in the NHL.