Washington Capitals’ defenceman John Carlson is on a torrid scoring pace this season as he leads all blue liners as of December 22nd with 47 points from 13 goals and 34 assists in 37 games. The 29-year-old from Natick, Massachusetts co-leads the league with six game-winning goals and is on pace to register 104 points in 2019/20. If he manages to keep up the pace he’ll definitely be joining some elite defencemen when it comes to scoring statistics.
Since the NHL began the 100-point barrier by a defenceman has been reached just 14 times and only five players have managed to achieve it. These are Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin, Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis. Orr did it six times while Coffey pulled it off five times and the rest reached 100 points or more once each. Leetch was the last rearguard to do it in 1991/92. For Carlson to join those legends he’ll need to score 53 points in his next 45 games.
No NHL defenceman has scored more than 90 points since 1993/94 when Ray Bourque did it and just three blue liners have notched more than 80 points since the 1995/96 campaign. These were Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks in 2018/19, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators in 2015/16 and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings in 2005/06. Carlson had a 13 point lead over Dougie Hamilton in blue line scoring on Dec. 22nd and was tied for seventh overall in the league.
Carlson has recorded a point on 37 per cent of his team’s goals sop far this year while Hamilton was next for a defender at slightly more than 30 per cent. Since 2017/18, Carlson has been on quite a roll with 41 goals and 144 assists for 185 points in 199 regular-season outings. This ranks him first or second for defencemen in goals scored, assists, total points, game-winning goals and even-strength goals. He now has 103 goals and 347 helpers for 450 points in 725 games while averaging 23:30 of ice time per night.
Many high-scoring defencemen are sometimes a liability in their own end but Carlson is a plus 101 for his career and is third in the league this season at plus 21. He’s also proved to be quite effective on the blue line once the playoffs start as he’s racked up 18 goals and 42 assists for 60 points in 107 postseason encounters. He chipped in with five goals and 20 points in 24 encounters in 2017/18 to help the Capitals win their first ever Stanley Cup.
It seems Carlson doesn’t just chip in with a point here and there as he’s already registered 14 multi-point games this season which is almost double any other blue liner in the league. The 6-foot-3-inch 220 lb rearguard was drafted by Washington in 2008 with the 27th overall pick in the first round and then registered 16 goals and 76 points in 59 games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League the next season to prove the Capitals had made the right choice.
With 70 points last season and 68 the year before it looks like Carlson’s now hitting his peak. He doesn’t come cheap as he inked an eight-year deal in the summer of 2018 for a total of 64 million. This averages out to $8 million a year but if he keeps scoring at the same pace for the next few seasons it may well be money worth spending.