Jon Carlson wasn’t even the first member of his family to find out he had been drafted into the Ontario Hockey League.
“I was just sitting at home, on my couch, watching a movie,” Carlson recalled of that May 1 afternoon.
“We had it [the draft] on the computer,” he noted. “I wasn’t really paying attention, but my sister comes out and says, ‘Jon, you’ve been drafted by the Ottawa 67s.’
“I looked on the computer and saw my name, and it was great.”
The 6’1”, 175-pound Carlson, who will turn 16 next month, said he didn’t have any preference of which OHL team took him, but was delighted when he found out he was chosen in the eighth round (156th overall).
“I was happy just to get drafted,” he admitted. “It was a dream come true.”
The son of Brad and Janice Carlson spent the 2009-10 season with the Thunder Bay Kings’ Minor Midget team, and was one of eight Kings selected on draft day.
“We had a really solid team. The team was great, coaches were great,” enthused Carlson, whose four goals and 31 assists put him second among defencemen on the squad.
“It’s great that all these teammates, eight of us, got drafted,” he added.
“I can’t even imagine lining up and not being on their team. . . . That would be crazy.”
Carlson was one of three area players on the Kings last season, skating alongside Bryce Knapp of Fort Frances and Robbie Rea from Devlin.
The Kings won the regular-season crown in the Winnipeg ‘AAA’ Hockey League with a 40-11-2 record, and won all six games en route to capturing the Peterborough Petes’ Tournament of Champions back in February.
Scouts often would appear at some of the larger tournaments, but Carlson maintained he wouldn’t let the extra attention get to him.
“When we went down to tournaments in Toronto, there would be scouts at the games and at the arena,” he noted.
“I just tried to play my game and not think about any of that stuff,” he reasoned. “I just tried to think about the team.”
He said some of the scouts would ask to meet with him, noting the meetings were light and informal.
“I did have a couple interviews with some teams,” he recalled. “It was just a little interview, get to know you, just say they’re interested in you.
“Nothing too major.
“They just kind of said, ‘We like the way you play and we’re interested in drafting you. Would you be okay if we drafted you?’
“That type of thing.”
Carlson said each sit-down with a scout put a spring in his step—providing him a vote of confidence in his play.
“It’s certainly a lot of motivation, that’s for sure,” he admitted. “It just makes you want to try even harder.”
Carlson added even though he’s a defenceman, he still had offence on the brain at times.
“I’m a puck-moving defenceman,” he explained. “I really focus on trying to make a good first pass to get the puck up the ice quick to the forwards, and I try to contribute offensively.”
Kings’ coach Lonny Bohonos, a former NHL’er with stints in Toronto and Vancouver, lauded Carlson’s work ethic, adding he noticed a significant improvement in his play over the season.
“He got a lot better as the year went on, he developed throughout the whole year,” Bohonos noted.
“I think that has a lot to do with his work ethic and staying on the ice a little bit extra, shooting pucks and working hard throughout the whole year.
“He just ended up getting better as the year went on, and I think he improved a lot.”
Bohonos credited Carlson for improvement in understanding the nuances of the game, which developed as the Kings faced strong teams based in southern Ontario.
“He improved on his positional play, and learning the game,” Bohonos observed.
“The level that we were at, playing in Winnipeg and everything, and going down to southern Ontario, the guys were bigger and faster.”
While Carlson was selected for his offensive smarts, those skills continued to progress, as well, Bohonos added.
“What first attracted us to Jon was obviously his size and how big he was, and how well he could move the puck,” the coach said.
“He worked on his shot all the time in practices, and he was the type of defenceman that would learn to shoot for sticks rather than shoot at the net, to look for tips.
“You see a lot of that a lot now.
“Those were the things that he worked on and improved.”
Carlson will be entering a situation in Ottawa where all but two players on the 67s’ blueline are expected to return next season. Ottawa also selected touted defencemen with their first two picks of this year’s draft.
But while Bohonos said the odds are stacked against Carlson playing for the team this coming season, there’s still an outside shot.
“In my opinion, is he ready next year as a 16-year-old? I’m going to say probably not,” Bohonos remarked. “But his goal should be to go there and make the team.
“If we works hard over the summer and he makes the team, I would not be surprised.”
The key, said Bohonos, will be for Carlson to try to match the rate he developed at last season.
“The way he improved this year, if he did that again next year, I can only see big improvements for him, and then who knows from there?” he reasoned.
“It’s very difficult for 16-year-olds to go in there and to make teams. The ones that do, I think that’s great.”
Bohonos also noted Carlson was an assistant captain with the Kings this past season, and his leadership skills were apparent right from the beginning.
“I think anytime kids can make the move from out of town and move in with somebody else, that shows a lot of character and leadership to be able to do that,” he praised.
“He’s calm, he doesn’t get overexcited. He gets along really well with his players and his coaching staff.
“That’s why he was an assistant captain.
“To anybody that knows him, he’s a great kid,” Bohonos added. “He’s very polite, well-mannered, works hard. . . .
“He’s a nice young man to be able to coach and to work with.”