It isn’t just bloggers and hockeysfuture.com addicts going gaga over John Carlson’s very polished, very mature game these days. It’s also the general manager of the Washington Capitals. On Monday afternoon after the first slate of Development Camp drills, I asked the GM for his impressions of Carlson from his late-postseason visits to Hershey to follow the Bears’ Calder Cup pursuit.
“There were a couple of [postseason] games where we really thought he might have been the best defenseman on the ice for either team.”
Safe to say the GM liked (very much) what he saw from Carlson’s play as a CHL assignee to the Bears.
“He has tremendous upside,” McPhee added. “We liked that he was playing a regular shift at the American League level, big games, especially in the finals.”
Potentially Capitals’ management could have a very tough decision ahead in September as it relates to Carlson. When I mentioned that Carlson had a standout camp last September, McPhee agreed, and when I posited his having another strong one this September, I asked how as a manager McPhee would weigh Carlson’s present value to the Caps versus his spending much or all of a full season in Hershey. Defensemen of course tend to take longer to develop than do players at other positions, and it’s never a bad thing to ‘overcook’ a blueliner a bit in the system.
“You watch him every day and try and decide what’s best — should he be here, should he go there?” McPhee said. ”We’ll do what anybody else would [in that situation].”
I also wondered what role if any knowing that Carlson would be playing for Dale Hunter in London might have had as the Caps pondered selecting Carlson in the first round of the entry draft last summer. McPhee acknowledged Monday that the Caps enjoy a special relationship with Coach Hunter.
“We would have drafted him anyway, but when we heard that we were really pleased because we thought ‘This will really be a great year of development for him’.
“Dale really liked him. And we talked a few times, and Dale basically said, ‘You got a real good one here,’ and this is how we handle him, and this is how you might want to handle him in the future.’