Last season in standard scoring categories, John Carlson of the Capitals was the 81st-best player to own in fantasy hockey. Only 10 defensemen were more valuable to their fantasy owners than him. Carlson is primed to enter the pantheon of elite fantasy defensemen this season and missing out on him at the expense of holding on to a player with more star power could prove to be a costly mistake.
With Mike Green playing with the Detroit Red Wings this season, Carlson will be getting the bulk of the power play ice time on the Capitals’ blue line. Over the last two seasons, Carlson put up 28 points on the man-advantage, which is a number he might approach this season alone serving as the team’s power play quarterback.
In addition to a featured power play role, Carlson will also be eating up a ton of ice time at even strength along with fellow Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. It’s hard to believe that Carlson is still only 25 (he’ll be turning 26 in January) and that his best hockey is almost certainly still ahead of him. All the pieces are in place for him to have a monster fantasy season.
If you’re playing in a hits and blocked shots league, Carlson is a defenseman you can’t miss out on. Over the last two seasons Carlson has 377 blocked shots and 403 registered shots on net. Those numbers are incredibly high, even among defensemen. Although he has only registered a modest 138 hits over the last two seasons, Carlson offers something that very few other top fantasy defenseman do; durability.
Since becoming a mainstay in the NHL in 2010-11 with the Capitals, Carlson has yet to miss a regular season game. Considering how prone some of the star defensemen in the league are to injuries, I consider Carlson’s durability to be a nice perk that justifies taking him over players with more star power that are typically drafted before him.
In standard scoring categories Carlson outperformed big names like Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Duncan Keith and Keith Yandle in regards to his hard rank at the end of last season. In Yahoo leagues Carlson’s average pick this fantasy season is 69.1 and in ESPN leagues he’s going at 93.4.
In both of those fantasy league hosts there are 14 blueliners that are going before him despite the tremendous upside that Carlson brings to the table and his steady upward trend in production over the last few seasons. Given his role with the Capitals, his steadily increasing value over the years, and the strength of his team, Carlson will almost certainly be one of the top ten defensemen in fantasy hockey by the end of the 2015-16 season.
Fantasy managers who don’t have John Carlson should consider parting with players like Alex Pietrangelo, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty to see if they can add the young American defenseman to their fantasy teams via trade. Not only does Carlson have a higher fantasy ceiling than some of the better known defenesmen in the league, he has already been outperforming a few of them over the past few seasons.
A more featured role on the league’s most lethal power play, the addition of Oshie to the top-six forward group, and the magic that is Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom makes Carlson a player poised to enter elite fantasy status this season.