College freshman joins the NHL

There’s been a fair share of athletes who have risen from almost nothing to become one of the top at their position. Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round, and is now one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Richard Sherman was a fifth round pick and had little expectations, and is now one of the league’s shutdown corners.

In hockey, a young goalie out of Edina, Minnesota has signed with the top team for goaltenders in the NHL, the Washington Capitals. The interesting thing about Adam Carlson is in addition to only one year in college, he never made his high school team.  The high school team would go on to win back to back state championships in 2013 and 2014.

Carlson making a diving save.
Carlson making a diving save.

Adam Carlson attended Edina High School where he was cut twice from his high school team. His sophomore year he was cut from the junior varsity team, and used this entire offseason and junior year to prepare to make the team his senior year. Upon trying out for the team, he was also cut his senior year. Many seniors would have rolled over and quit at this point, but Carlson only used this as motivation. He never held a grudge against head coach Curt Giles, a former NHL player.

“They’ve given me the best gift by cutting me,” Carlson said in an interview with Star Tribune. There were times, he admitted, where his frustrations did had him thinking of quitting hockey to focus more on school or baseball, his other sport.

Now, after one year of college, it’s crazy to think he has received an NHL contract already. Elder goaltender coach and Milwaukee Admirals coach Ben Hartung has preached the same thing to the goalies of Elder High School. “It’s possible for anyone to get a contract,” Hartung said. “What separates an NHL goaltender from everyone else is how much he wants it.” For as good as he is, he does have his share of flaws, but every goaltender has flaws. The difference is that he refuses to let his break him.

Elder goaltender Jacob Henn sees him as an inspiration. “He reminds me of Scott Darling, a goalie with a dream.” Scott Darling was once a Cyclones goaltender, and not too many Cyclones make it back to the NHL. “He shows that we should not give up on our dreams, despite starting out on a rocky path.”

Washington Capitals goaltender coach Mitch Korn working with Braden Holtby, Korn's third Vezina trophy nominee.
Washington Capitals goaltender coach Mitch Korn working with Braden Holtby, Korn’s third Vezina trophy nominee.

Washington Capitals goaltender coach Mitch Korn is someone I’ve worked with over previous summers, and Carlson fits perfectly into Korn’s system. Through Mitch Korn’s goaltending camps, I’ve seen he has a certain philosophy about “late bloomers.” He’s a fan of them, and he sees these goaltenders as some of the hardest workers.

Korn’s most famous goaltender is Dominik Hasek, who didn’t start his NHL career until 1990, around the age of 26. Many NHL players start in their young 20’s, but for the top tier goalies they seem to be in their mid to late 20’s.

So, from Mercyhurst University to the Washington Capitals, Adam Carlson will be in a two-way contract with the Capitals organization and playing for the Hershey (PA) Bears. Not often does a freshman in college receive a contract offer from the NHL, and the odds of this happening again are not too high.

Below is a video of one of Carlson’s highlights from his Tier III Steele County Blades games, where he finished his high school career.