Carpenter's spectacular playing career included winning three Stanley Cup titles – one as a player and two as a coach – and becoming the first player in the history of the United States, to go directly from high school to the National Hockey League.
NHL scouts took notice of Carpenter during his stellar career at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, MA. His sophomore year, he led the team to the 1979 Massachusetts State Championship with 54 points (23-31) in 23 games. In his junior season, Carpenter totaled 65 points (28-37) in 33 games for the Eagles. He played in only 18 games his senior season, but still amassed 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points. In his final two years at St. John's, he was named Massachusetts High School Player of the Year.
Carpenter appeared on the cover of the Feb. 23, 1981, issue of Sports Illustrated, a rare feat for a hockey player, let alone a high school hockey player. The story labeled him the "Can’t-Miss Kid" and the greatest high school hockey player in history.
The Washington Capitals traded up to select Carpenter with the third overall pick in the 1981 NHL Draft. At the time, no American-developed player had been selected that high in the NHL Draft.
Carpenter went on to have a highly successful 18-year NHL career, spending time with the Capitals, New York Rangers, LA Kings, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. In 1,178 NHL regular-season games, Carpenter compiled 728 points (320-408). He totaled 63 points (25-38) in 144 Stanley Cup playoff games. H ranks third all-time among American-developed players in NHL games played.
As an 18-yr old rookie, Carpenter played in 80 games for the Capitals in the 1981-82 season. In the first game of his NHL career, he notched two points (1-1) against the Buffalo Sabres, just one year removed from high school. Carpenter tallied 32 goals and 67 points, both team records for a rookie at the time. He also set the Capitals' record for consecutive games played (442) from Oct. 7, 1981, to Nov. 22, 1986.
Carpenter became the first American-born player to record 50 goals in a season in 1984-85. That year, he led Washington with 53 goals and added 42 assists for 95 points and played in the 1985 NHL All-Star game.
Carpenter helped the Bruins win the President's Trophy in 1989-90 and notched four goals and six assists on Boston's run to the Stanley Cup finals.
When Carpenter joined the New Hersey Devils, he modified his game from that of a goal-scorer to more of a defensive-minded forward. He became a valuable member of the penalty kill and in 1995, played a significant role in helping the Devils capture their first Stanley Cup title.
Carpenter went on to coach in the pro ranks, spending time as both an assistant coach and head coach with Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League and as an assistant coach with the Devils. He helped guide New Jersey to two more Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003.
Internationally, Carpenter participated in one world junior championship, one world championship and two Canada Cups. He led the 1981 U.S. National Junior Team with nine points (5-4) in five games and was named the team’s most valuable player.