Washington Capitals 2017 Season Review: John Carlson

Even during a down year, John Carlson proved himself to be a top pairing defenseman for the Washington Capitals this season. 

One of the very few Washington Capitals who didn’t perform up to expectations during their President Trophy season is John Carlson. Granted, he set the bar high for himself with his previous two seasons, netting 94 points in 136 regular season games. But still, Carlson undeniably wasn’t himself this season.

That said, he was still a very good defenseman. Carlson lost his first power play unit role to Matt Niskanen, and later Kevin Shattenkirk, but moving forward, he’s still an important part of the Capitals. He’ll be a free agent after next season, so the Caps defenseman will have to do better next season to cash in.

All stats, unless otherwise mentioned, are from Corsica. Possession and goals for stats are at even strength and adjusted for venue, score and zone.

2016-17 Stats

StatRegular seasonPostseason
Games Played 7213
5v5 goals/600.260
5v5 assists/600.690.6
5v5 points/600.950.6
5v5 primary points/600.840
Plus-minus rating71
Time on ice per game22:4322:24
Penalty minutes104
Blocked shots12723
5v5 CorsiFor percentage50.9655.06
5v5 GF percentage54.1161.14
5v5 xGF percentage49.5452.08
5v5 CorsiFor relative-3.69 percent+1.46
5v5 GF relative-8.79 percent+19.66
5v5 xGF relative-4.54 percent+0.72


What song best describes Carlson? As a proven American hero, this needs to be blasted every time he scores. Also, Carlson needs to celebrate every goal by ripping his jersey off.

The Good

Even in a down year, Carlson was productive. His 0.26 goals per 60 minutes at even strength led all Caps defensemen with at least 300 minutes played. Carlson finished the regular season third among Capitals blue liners with 0.58 primary assists per 60 minutes at even strength. While his 0.69 assists per 60 minutes rate looks bad, it’s easily explained by his career low 0.11 secondary assists per 60 minutes rate.

It’s hard to define what a top pairing defenseman is. However, the simplest way to do it is look at time on ice. Carlson led all Caps defensemen in time on ice per game. While it’s debatable if he is a top pairing caliber defenseman, it’s indisputable the Capitals view him as one. Carlson raised his game in the postseason, putting up impressive possession and goals for rates. However, his production fell. But to be fair, so did just about everyone else’s.

Carlson should have been a Lady Byng finalist. It’s extremely impressive considering the heavy minutes he played how few penalty minutes he had. On a team which lacked discipline, Carlson was a rare exception.

The Bad

Carlson’s durability used to be one of his best abilities. But after not missing a game in his first five full seasons, he missed 10 games in 2016-17. This marks the second straight year he’s missed at least 10 games. Also, his production fell. There are a variety of factors in play, a good number of them likely beyond Carlson’s control, but it’s still concerning.

A big reason for his declining production was he lost his spot on the first power play unit. Carlson averaged 4.45 points per 60 minutes, 0.95 goals per 60 minutes and 3.50 assists per 60 minutes with the extra man. But he went through a huge dry spell and the addition of Shattenkirk further complicated things.

There’s also the issue of his terrible possession and goals for numbers in the regular season. However, it’s worth noting his most common partner this season was Karl Alzner, who was arguably the Caps least efficient defenseman at even strength. A switch to Nate Schmidt should do him well, though the pair haven’t done well in limited minutes over the past two seasons.


As noted earlier, Carlson will be a free agent after next season. The Capitals should explore trading him if they can’t sign him to an extension. Looking at Washington’s right-handed depth, if they want to continue to contend for a Stanley Cup, keeping him is a must. That said, the Caps could use a first round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Carlson might be their best shot of getting one.

He will most likely bounce back as far as production. Carlson’s assist rate should improve with better luck regarding secondary assists. He will most likely regain his top power play unit spot, at least to start the season. With a strong 2017-18 campaign, Carlson could be the second or third best free agent defensemen after next season.

Player Grade


Defenseman, Washington Capitals


Carlson’s production dropped and his possession numbers are concerning. But he takes on tough minutes and is a guy you can rely on for over 20 minutes a night. Caps fans should be encourage by his postseason. Hopefully he can build on it.

More from: Japers Rink, RMNB


Should the Washington Capitals trade Carlson? How do you replace his minutes if you do? What kind of extension would you offer him, in terms of years and annual cap hit? Feel free to discuss in the comments!