Carpenter Headed to U.S. Hockey Hall
Carpenter was heralded as "The Can't Miss Kid" when he was featured on the cover of the Feb. 23, 1981 edition of Sports Illustrated magazine as a high schooler, the first high school hockey player to be on the cover of SI. Washington chose him with the third overall pick in the 1981 Enrty Draft. The Caps originally held the fifth choice in that draft, but made a draft day deal with the Colorado Rockies to leap over the Hartford Whalers, who were poised to take Carpenter with the fourth overall choice.
A Massachusetts native, Carpenter and his family were hoping he'd go to Hartford. Carpenter's father and the Whalers' brass were both angry when Washington general manager Max McNab made the deal and the subsequent pick, but both parties were assuaged in the end. Hartford wound up "settling" for center Ron Francis with the fourth overall choice, and Carpenter abandoned a letter of intent to play at Providence College when the Caps signed him and made him the first ever U.S. high school hockey player to go directly from school to the NHL. Carpenter's first pact was a three-year deal with an option that was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 for the life of the contract.
Carpenter was the youngest player in the NHL during the 1981-82 season, but it didn't show on the ice. He recorded a goal and an assist in his first NHL game against Buffalo on Oct. 7, 1981 and finished the campaign with 32 goals and 67 points. Those figures stood as Washington's single-season franchise standards for a rookie for nearly a quarter of a century until Alex Ovechkin came along and shattered them in 2005-06. Carpenter's opening night assist came on his first shift in the league and just 12 seconds into the game when he set up Ryan Walter for a breakaway tally.
Along with Mike Gartner, Carpenter became known as one of the "Goal Dust Twins." Playing on the same line together in 1984-85, both players reached the 50-goal plateau while combining for 197 points. Carpenter's 50-goal season was the first ever in the NHL by an American.
After his 53-goal season in '84-85, his production dipped to just 27 goals and 56 points in 1985-86. Carpenter played his last game as a Capital on Nov. 22, 1986. He was suspended after that contest, putting an end to his streak of 422 consecutive games played. Carpenter and Washington coach Bryan Murray were unable to get along, and general manager David Poile felt that he needed to suspend the player until he was able to trade him.
It took almost six weeks for Poile to make a deal, but that swap turned out to be one of the best in Capitals history. On New Year's Day 1987, Poile shipped Carpenter to the New York Rangers (a team he always fared well against during his days in the District) along with a second-round pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Kelly Miller, Mike Ridley and Bob Crawford. Carpenter's tenure as a Ranger lasted just 28 games; he was dealt to Los Angeles in a deal involving Marcel Dionne just over two months after his departure from Washington.
Carpenter returned for a second term with the Caps when he signed a one-year deal worth $500,000 as an unrestricted free agent on June 30, 1992. That pact included two team option years, but Washington elected not to exercise them after Carpenter scored 11 goals and totaled 28 points in 68 games during the 1992-93 season.
He wound down his playing career as a checking line center in New Jersey, earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Devils in 1995. He appeared in 490 games as a member of the Capitals, totaling 188 goals and 395 points. Over the course of his 19-year NHL career, Carpenter totaled 320 goals, 728 points and 919 penalty minutes.
Carpenter announced his retirement on Aug. 16, 1999. Nearly eight years to the day later, he learned he'll be enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He'll be joined in the Class of 2007 by former NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, longtime NHL forward Aaron Broten and former Michigan Tech head coach John MacInnes. Carpenter becomes the fifth former Capital to earn enshrinement in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He joins former Caps teammates Rod Langway and Dave Christian and also Craig Patrick and Phil Housley.
The quartet will be formally inducted into the Hall at a dinner ceremony on Friday, Oct. 12, at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, pitting defending national champion Michigan State University against host University of North Dakota, will be played at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday, Oct. 13.