Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
After a number of years in which the Caps had a relatively thin top six on the back end, the 2014-15 edition is stocked with at least five rearguards capable of playing 20 minutes a night.
Of those five, John Carlson is the most important, because he's the most versatile of the bunch.
Blessed with a 6'3" frame, good mobility and a cannon of a shot, Carlson has all the tools to contribute at both ends of the ice, and though Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen are Washington's shiny new toys, Carlson's the guy Trotz should be building around.
Since entering the league during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carlson's quietly developed into one of the game's best young defensemen, as evidenced by his inclusion on the American roster for the 2014 Olympics.
And now, coming off a season in which Carlson played more than 24 minutes a night, the 24-year-old is ready to assume the role of the undisputed leading man on Washington's blue line.
He can quarterback the power play and penalty kill, and alongside Karl Alzner, is one-half of the team's best pairing, so Carlson's performance in 2014-15 will be critical to this team's postseason chances.