Bob Carpenter was the original “Can’t Miss Kid,” bringing attention to American youth hockey players during a time where most young, top NHL prospects came from outside of the U.S. Carpenter played 18 strong seasons in the NHL and continues to be actively involved in youth hockey in his home state of Massachusetts.
Carpenter was selected third overall by the Capitals in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft and holds the distinction of being the first U.S. citizen drafted into the NHL directly out of high school and the first U.S. born hockey player to be selected within the top five picks of the NHL draft.
The process of going through the NHL draft made a lifelong impact on Carpenter. He said it was amazing to receive the support and encouragement he did to be able to play in the NHL coming directly out of high school.
“I didn’t know myself if I would be able to play in the NHL,” Carpenter now recalls. “But the team, coaches and rest of the staff gave me the support and encouragment to help me become the player I was. The experience taught me to believe in myself.”
Being a young player he formed relationships not only with the staff who helped him develop as a player but also with teammates coming into the Capitals organization under similar circumstances. One of these players was Scott Stevens, who was drafted a year after Carpenter.
“Scottie is still a great friend, and someone I met in Washington,” says Carpenter. “We played together in Washington and New Jersey and remain great friends.”
After his playing career Carpenter remained with the New Jersey Devils as an assistant coach, capturing Stanley Cup titles in 2000 and 2003. He also served as the head coach for the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League.
Currently Carpenter serves as the director of program development and head coach of the ’94 Elites for the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. He is back home in the Boston area, watching his three kids (one daughter and two sons) grow up through sports.
Carpenter played seven seasons with the Capitals, from 1981-86 and returning for the 1992-93 season. He led the Capitals in goals during the 1984-85 season (53) and in power-play goals during the 1982-83 season (14). He still ranks highly on the Capitals’ all-time record ledger, standing third overall in single-season goals (53, 1984-85 season), sixth overall in single-season points (95, 1984-85 season), sixth overall in career goals (188) and 14th overall in the top 50 point scorers (490 games, 395 points—188 goals, 207 assists). He also represented the Capitals in the 1985 NHL All-Star Game.
Carpenter was traded to the New York Rangers during the 1986-87 season and later that season was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. During the 1988-89 season he returned to the Boston area, playing with the Bruins until 1992. Returning to the Capitals in 1992-93 season, Carpenter only lasted one season before signing with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent in 1993. While with New Jersey, Carpenter captured a Stanley Cup championship as a player during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He would end his career as a Devil in 1999, months before the start of the 1999-2000 season. Carpenter’s NHL career spanned 18 seasons, where he played in 1,178 games and recorded 728 points (320 goals, 408 assists).