Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner does not grab recognition easily.
He’s been a steady presence on the Washington blueline for five years, playing difficult minutes against tough competition. If Alzner hasn’t matured into a star – his complete lack of offensive production limits that label – but the team also isn’t complaining about the fifth pick in the 2007 draft.
Alzner was a mainstay with John Carlson for several years, but he and Mike Green were the obvious top pairing for most of 2013. That is likely to remain true for next season as Alzner, 24, enters the first year of a four-year contract extension worth $11.2 million.
On the surface that seems like a bargain for a player who was deemed good enough to earn an invite to Hockey Canada’s Olympic development camp next week. And while Alzner remains a long-shot to actually make the team headed to Sochi for the Winter Olympics in February, his presence alone in Calgary shows his reputation.
“You almost take him for granted sometimes,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said earlier this month. “Karl is one of those guys who is so steady, makes so many smart decisions with the puck that you just come to expect it.”
But all of that comes without the flash of Green or John Carlson, two Washington teammates who also earned invited to development camp for Canada and the United States respectively. Alzner has five goals in his entire NHL career. He did have 16 assists in 2011-12, a career-best, but posted just four in 48 games during last year’s lockout-shortened campaign.
One issue the Caps haven’t had to worry about: Missing Alzner. Over the last three seasons he has appeared in all 232 games the team has played. That durability is part luck, part skating ability – he can escape trouble - and part hockey smarts.