Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson named to the U.S. Olympic team

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Capitals defenseman John Carlson was at home watching the Winter Classic on NBC on Wednesday, wondering when the snow-driven game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs would end and the U.S. Olympic hockey team would be announced.

“I was trying to wait patiently, but it seemed like the game was five hours long,” Carlson said Wednesday night outside the White House.

The U.S. Olympic roster was announced in alphabetical order and it wasn’t until a young boy wearing a Carlson jersey skated in front of the camera that the 23-year-old native of Natick, Mass., realized his dream of playing in the Winter Olympics, a dream that began when he started playing hockey in Colonia, N.J.

“It’s obviously an honor to play for your country and I feel a bond with D.C.,” Carlson said.

“It’s just cool standing in front of the White House. This city has a lot of meaning and so does playing for my country. It’s a whole new level.”

Carlson said his cell phone buzzed uncontrollably before, during and after the announcement as family and friends congratulated him on his selection.

After talking with his father, Richard, and mother, Angela, Carlson said he received a phone call from Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who serves as an assistant general manager for Team USA. Shero said he would speak with Carlson again when the Caps visit the Penguins on Jan. 15.

Team USA general manager David Poile said he thought Carlson has proven himself as a solid two-way defenseman who can log meaningful minutes.

“This year he has transitioned from somewhat of a defensive defenseman to a two-way defenseman,” Poile said. “He leads the NHL, I believe, in shorthanded minutes [4:00 per game] with a team that’s pretty good in penalty killing and his offensive game has gone way up.”

Carlson last represented Team USA in the 2010 World Championships when he scored the game-winning goal against Canada in the gold-medal game. He said he was so caught up in the emotion of making the Olympic team that he had to rewind the announcement to see which Americans teammates he’ll have in Sochi in the tournament that runs from Feb. 7-23.

“Once they got to me I kind of lost track of everything else,” Carlson said. “I thought, ‘Who else is on there?’ I had to rewind it. It’s a great team. Very dynamic players that give the Caps problems all the time. I think with the big ice surface [15 feet wider than NHL rinks] we’re going to be pretty fast.”

Carlson said he’s looking forward to seeing Russia for the first time and the experience of living in the Olympic village. He’ll also spend the next month devising ways to stop one of Russia’s most prolific scorers, teammate Alex Ovechkin.

“I need to pay a little more attention to what he’s doing,” Carlson said. “I’ve faced him a lot at practice, but I’ll need to keep my eye on him more.”

Missing among Carlson’s teammates in Sochi will be Bobby Ryan, who helped the U.S. to the silver medal in 2010. Ryan could be added later as an injury replacement.

“We did not pick the 25 best players,”  Poile told reporters in Ann Arbor. “We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal.”

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