Happy St. Patricks Day!
In today’s lecture we will be taking a look at Ottawa Senator’s All-Star defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson was drafted 15th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. 11 defenceman were taken in the 1st round that year (notables: Doughty,Schenn,Pietrangelo,Myers,Del Zotto) and Karlsson was a steal at 15th.The 21 year old Swede is in his second full year with the Senator’s and is having a superb 2011-2012 campaign. Going strictly by the numbers it’s easy to see the positive progression (no pun intended) trending and at only 21 it’s hopefully a sign of great things to come.
In ’10-’11 Karlsson played 75 games registering 13 goals, 32 assists, and 45 points. That’s a pretty solid stat line for your first full year as a pro. Given that there is typically a huge learning curve for young defenceman coming into the league, its all the more impressive. However with that said, Karlsson finished the year with a glaring -30 rating. Ottawa only won 32 games that year with a 2.32 goals per game, and 2.99 goals against per game. With numbers like that and playing an average of 25 minutes a game, Karlsson’s rating doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Still one of his main criticisms was his d-zone positioning and play. A total threat at one end, and a liability at the other.
Fast forward to this year and the Senators were pegged to have a similar season. Despite having a new head coach in Paul MacLean, at the start of the year they were once again predicted to be basement dwellers of the eastern conference. This would surely result in similar statistics for not only Karlsson, but the whole roster in general (only 9 players finished +0 or higher). However as of March 16 2012, the Sens knocked Boston out of top spot of the North Eastern division,and jumped from 6th place to 2nd. Due to the health and avoidance of previous years injury woes, and continued stellar performances from their veterans, the Senators are having an excellent season, and so is Erik Karlsson.
Through 71 games this season Karlsson has 19 goals, 52 assists, and 71 points. That is good for 3rd overall in assists and 7th overall in points(ahead of Neal, Tavares, Eberle, and Hossa to name a few). The jump in production can be attributed to the overall team success, but for anybody who has watched the Senators play this year Erik Karlsson has been heads and shoulders above any other defenceman in the league. The next highest scoring defender is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panters with 47. Oh, and the plus/minus rating? A stellar +17.
The natural growth of a young player from one year to the next is always fun to watch, but Karlsson has shown experience beyond his years. He seems to always have his head up, and his feet moving. He moves the puck quickly and efficiently, and always recognizes the opportunity to join the rush, in particular his ability to pinch in off the blue line to keep plays alive, and challenge opposing teams break outs. Karlsson’s steady play has drawn the praise of his GM Bryan Murray who compared his stud d-man to living legend Nicklas Lidsrtom during his early playing days (Murray coached the Wings when Lidstrom broke into the NHL in the early 90s) and said he sees a similarity between the two.
“Lidstrom wasn’t a big hitter but he had a good stick and had good positioning, Erik plays the same way.”
Being compared to arguably the best defenceman of all time would be a huge honor, and I think I speak for everyone when I say here’s hoping he continues to grow along a similar path as his fellow Swede.
Comparisons and team play aside, I think that with the system MacLean is running in Ottawa, and the continued strong play of key team members we will have many more years of excellent stats and play to come from the young Erik Karlsson. The future in Ottawa is starting to look bright, and nobody is lighting that lamp more than him.