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Laine's scoring surge impresses Carson

Jets forward taking aim at former King's NHL record for goals by teenager

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

During his NHL career, Jimmy Carson was always modest to a fault about his achievements; especially true now that his League record for goals scored as a teenager is coming back into focus, thanks to forward Patrik Laine's recent scoring surge with the Winnipeg Jets. 

Carson is the father of four children and suggested none of them are aware he scored 92 goals with the Los Angeles Kings before his 20th birthday.

"Probably not," Carson, 49, said Monday in a telephone interview. "I would say no."

Laine, who turns 20 on April 19, scored his 41st goal of the season and 77th in 142 games in a 3-2 overtime loss at the Washington Capitals on Monday. He broke a tie with Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers) and Brian Bellows (Minnesota North Stars) and took sole possession of third place on the teenage scoring list, behind Carson and Dale Hawerchuk, who had 85 goals with the original Winnipeg Jets.

Video: WPG@WSH: Laine extends point streak, ties game

Laine would need to score 16 goals in his final 13 games this season to break Carson's record.

Carson said he began receiving emails and texts about his record after Laine scored his 40th goal of the season in a 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. 

"It's quite an accomplishment," Carson said. "Probably if he [Laine] played in my era, he would have scored even more. It's very tough to compare eras.

"But I've watched enough to know that hockey is a lot tighter now than it was. Nowadays you hear about people scoring 20, 30 goals and that's an amazing season. Back when I played, if you scored 50 and you went back to 30, you were a dog."

The Kings played in the wide-open, offense-first Smythe Division in those days. Carson scored 37 goals in 1986-87, his rookie season. 

In 1987-88, Carson had his best NHL season, with 107 points (55 goals, 52 assists), four points behind future Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, who led Los Angeles with 111 points (53 goals, 58 assists).

At the time, the teenage goal-scoring record didn't get much attention.

"It's one of those things where you're in the moment and having fun, playing with great players and it's just happening," Carson said. "I never even knew that.

"I remember at the time it was a bigger deal that I was the second American to score 50. Bobby Carpenter was the first (when he scored 53 for the Washington Capitals in 1984-85)."

At that time, the Kings were capable of allowing 10 goals in a loss and scoring eight goals to win their next game. Carson had six points (four goals, two assists) in a 9-7 win against the Calgary Flames on March 30, 1988.

"I had a fifth goal that was disallowed, called offside or something," Carson said. "I was coming down the right wing and shot it and they said, 'No goal.' I said, 'Come on, man, how often do you get the chance to get five?' That's what I remember about that game. Wide open at the Fabulous Forum."

Carson began his Kings career on a line with Dave Taylor and Morris Lukowich. By the end of the first season, he was playing with another rookie, Robitaille, and Taylor, an accomplished veteran.

"Luc and I had great chemistry," Carson said. "It started when we played against each other in the Quebec League. He was in Hull, and I was in Verdun and we played in the final. I like to remind him that we won. 

"I knew some French and remember meeting this French kid from Montreal who I had played against. I remember initially I would speak French to him and he would just look at me. It was cool."

When Carson first joined the Kings at training camp he was the youngest player in the League at 18 years, two months. The Kings were coming off a 54-point performance in 1985-86, so rookies like Carson, Robitaille and defenseman Steve Duchesne were given more opportunities and playing time they may not have received elsewhere.

"I remember going to Kings training camp and thinking, 'I'm not going back to juniors. I'm going to make this team,' " Carson said. "Once I got that in my head, I'm like, 'OK, I can play here.' "

Robitaille won the Calder Trophy as the League's Rookie of the Year in 1986-87. Carson, selected No. 2 by the Kings in the 1986 NHL Draft, finished third in Calder Trophy voting. 

On Aug. 9, 1988, the Kings acquired Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley from the Oilers for Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round NHL Draft picks and $15 million. It remains one of the biggest trades in the history of professional sports.

Video: Oilers send franchise icon Wayne Gretzky to the Kings

Carson played for the Kings (twice), the Oilers, Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks and Hartford Whalers, finishing his NHL career with the Whalers in 1995-96. He had 561 points (275 goals, 286 assists) in 626 games.

"So much in life or business or in pro sports, I came into a good situation, playing with the players I did and a coach [Pat Quinn] who gave me a chance right away," Carson said. "I often think I could have gone to another organization who sent me to the minors or back to juniors. That stuff happens. 

"I've had this conversation with Luc before. If Luc had gone to another team -- or any player, for that matter -- you may not have that opportunity or shot to make an impact. I was grateful and fortunate to be in the right place at the right time."

Carson, who works in the financial services industry, said his family members aren't as impressed by his career accomplishments as others are.

Two of his kids are out of the family home in Rochester, Michigan; Charlie, the oldest, will be graduating from Kalamazoo College in the spring, and John is at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Andrew is a senior in high school and daughter Mia is 13.

"They know their dad played pro hockey," he said. "It's fine by me. I'm more interested in their stuff."

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