Carlson turned some heads at 67’s camp

Dan Falloon

Local blueliner Jon Carlson may not have been able to crack the Ottawa 67’s opening day lineup as a 16-year-old, but there is plenty of optimism around his showing at the OHL club’s training camp earlier this month.
Carlson went right down to the wire, surviving the first round of cuts, and only was let go as the team pared down its last few players.
Carlson was excited about his showing at camp in front of head coach Chris Byrne and now Ottawa GM Brian Kilrea.
“It was a great experience down there,” Carlson enthused from Thunder Bay, where he has rejoined the Kings ‘AAA’ squad.
The biggest thing working against the 6’1”, 185-pound Carlson was his size and strength, and he noted he’ll make sure to work on that aspect of his conditioning throughout the season in order to be ready for next year’s camp.
“They told me, obviously, I’m not ready as a 16-year-old to go play down there,” Carlson explained.
“I’ve got to get a lot bigger and stronger before I go down there.
“They just told me I’ve got to work on getting bigger and stronger, as well as keeping my game going, too,” he continued.
“I’ve got to keep improving.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to crack a spot on the team next year.
The camp included all players in the 67’s system, so there were multiple NHL draft choices in attendance. Carlson said a pair of second-rounders from June’s entry draft—Tyler Toffoli (L..A. Kings) and Dalton Smith (Columbus Blue Jackets)—were the ones challenging him the most.
“Those were two guys you didn’t necessarily want to be on the ice against because they were so good,” he recalled. “It was really fun playing with them, though.
“[Toffoli] was a tough one to go against, for sure,” Carlson described. “He was really skilled, really quick, and really smart with the puck.”
“[Smith] was more of a bigger guy,” he added. “He was really strong and physical and fast.”
Carlson was most proud of his ability to be a shut-down defender, noting that anytime he was able to do his job, considering the competition, was a positive to take away from the experience.
“All the players there were great hockey players, so anytime you shut a guy down one-on-one or take the puck away from a player, you always feel pretty good,” he reasoned.
“It’s an accomplishment to take the puck away from anyone.”
Carlson competed for a roster spot under the watchful eye of Kilrea, a junior hockey legend who coached the 67’s from 1974-84 and 1986-2009, winning two Memorial Cups and accumulating nearly 1,200 regular-season victories.
However, while Carlson expects that the legendary coach had a say in the selections, he operated so as to let Byrne have control of the team.
“You could just go to him and talk to him about anything,” Carlson recalled. “He didn’t say anything in particular to anyone, I don’t think.”
Carlson added even though he was the only participant from this area, he quickly was able to get on the same page with the other players in camp.
“You get down there and all the guys are great, and they treat you like everyone knows each other,” he noted.
“Everyone treats each other well.”
For now, Carlson will play the 2010-11 season with the Major Midget Kings alongside fellow locals Bryce Knapp and Donovan Cousineau.
The team is slated to play games as far away as Kalamazoo and Lansing, Mich., and Carlson is convinced that the Kings should offer stiff competition this season.
“Everything’s going really good so far,” he enthused. “We’ve got a really good team, and our first games are this weekend, so I’m pretty excited for that.
“It should be a great year.”
The Kings will host the Duluth North Wings for two games this Saturday before heading there a week later.
In other news, Emo native and Belleville Bulls’ captain Luke Judson had to turn down an invite from the San Jose Sharks’ rookie camp after breaking a finger in the days leading up to it.
But Judson said he should be able to play in a splint if need be when the OHL season kicks off Sept. 25.