“It’s a dream come true,” John Carlson said of his selection to the 2014 U.S. Olympic team.
Watching the Winter Classic at home with his girlfriend, Carlson, who said the Olympics had been in the back of his mind for months, found out he made the team the same way fans across the country did – when the youth player wearing his Team USA sweater turned his back to the NBC cameras.
While not surprising, Carlson’s selection is historic, as he becomes the first Washington Capital selected to represent the United States in an Olympics. In Sochi, he will join Washington Captain Alex Ovechkin, who will represent Russia and was recently effusive when talking about Carlson and his chances of making the Olympic squad.
Carlson is one of eight defensemen the U.S. is taking to Sochi next month. It is a notably youthful group with Carlson, who turns 24 on January 10, joining Cam Fowler, 22, Justin Faulk, 21, Ryan McDonagh, 24, and Kevin Shattenkirk, 24, as first-time Olympians. Only Brooks Orpik, 33, and Ryan Suter, who will be 29 by the time the Games start, participated in an Olympics before. Paul Martin, 32, made the taxi squad for the 2006 games but did not play.
“I think we’ve got a great team,” Carlson said, noting that speed is clearly a strength of the American squad. “I think that’s important on the big surface. I think skating is going to be important.”
The selections made by USA Hockey officials are already garnering some criticism. The most glaring exclusion on the blue line is mobile veteran Keith Yandle. But the inclusion of Carlson, who averages almost 25 minutes of ice time per game and has upended Mike Green as the Capitals top defenseman, is a no-brainer that shocked no one.
“For me, I think I always knew that I had a great shot to make the team,” Carlson said. “But I don’t make those decisions. You never know.”
Carlson said following the announcement he spoke briefly with Team USA Associate General Manager Ray Shero, who congratulated him.
While Shero is the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and joins coaches Dan Bylsma and Tony Granato and players Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin as members of the Penguins organization on the U.S. Olympic team, Carlson dismissed any notion that he would have trouble finding chemistry with a team composed of NHL rivals. He said there is not one member of Team USA that he dislikes.
Carlson will draw on his previous international experience as a member of the gold-medal winning team in the 2010 World Junior Championships when he is in Sochi. He said the World Junior Championships were a “mini version of the Olympics.”
As far as adjusting to the bigger ice surface, Carlson noted that, as a defenseman, he has to be aware of his positioning. He also said that Washington teammate and Czech Republic native Martin Erat has actually been giving him pointers.
The U.S. Men open tournament play against Slovakia on February 13.