In first year as alternate captain, John Carlson leading by example

Chris Lingebach
November 07, 2019 - 6:29 pm
John Carlson celebrates a win with rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson is off to the best start of his career, coming off a brilliant October in which he was named the NHL's first star of the month after setting a franchise record for points in a month by a defenseman with 23 (7 goals, 16 assists), falling just short of the league record for points by a defenseman in October (Al MacInnis had 25 points for Calgary in Oct. 1990).

The Caps defenseman is fifth in the NHL in points after 16 games and is the early leading candidate for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's top defenseman. Carlson also leads the Caps in assists (16) and points (23).

Coming into the 2019-20 season, Carlson was tasked with a new leadership role, taking over for Brooks Orpik as an alternate captain, although the honor hasn't changed much for him on the ice, he admits.

"Not much. I wouldn't say literally anything," Carlson told 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes Thursday, presented by The Purple Heart. "I've always tried to be a leader, tried to help other guys, lead by example or pull a guy aside here or there. But nothing's really changed for me other than just being named the assistant captain."

Ever modest, Carlson doesn't believe his play – or any one player getting hot – can dramatically alter the outcome for a team. Coming off a blistering road trip, his Capitals (11-2-3) are the league's points leaders with 25, tied with the St. Louis Blues, who have played one more game.

"I don't think one guy can really swing a team, especially for that long of a stretch," Carlson said. "I think guys can get hot and carry the team a game or two here or there, but it's a total team effort on both sides of the rink. I think when guys start getting a little bit of confidence, like we're feeling right now – we're feeling pretty good about ourselves – and seeing pucks go in and playing the right way at the same time, those things are contagious."

"Everyone kind of follows one another, starting with Ovi," he said. "Obviously the captain always has had to lead the charge. It's just great to see. It obviously starts as a team and once it trickles down, and guys start getting their goals and assists and stuff, you can just see how they play. Right now, we're spread out and everyone's kind of getting in on the action, and that's what it takes to have the start that we did."

Another player off to a hot start is Jakub Vrana, who led the Caps with a hat trick in their 4-2 win over Calgary Sunday night and has 14 points on the season (9 goals, 5 assists).

"I think he's obviously cashing in on his chances," Carlson said of the former first-round pick. "A guy like him with his skill and speed, he's always gonna create mismatches and get to those scoring areas that he's scoring from right now. It's great to see. I think a young player, especially we were talking about confidence, that's a big deal for some guys."

"Like I said, just try to replicate that same feeling going into the game for him, and trying to get himself to those areas that he can perform better than most guys in the league," he said.

Carlson begins at the 19:30 mark below.