At the tender age of 22, Ottawa Senators Defenseman Erik Karlsson has molded himself into a household name in the NHL. Drafted 15th overall in the 2008 Entry Draft, it took the Swedish star little time to adjust to the North American style of hockey. After starting the season in the AHL, he played 60 games in his rookie season, netting five goals and adding 21 assists, while also contributing 6 points in 6 playoff games. Karlsson would start the 2010 campaign with the Senators, notching 13 goals in 75 games, and helped represent Sweden in the World Championships. With a full NHL season and his first experience with Team Sweden under his belt, the budding star was poised for a phenomenal year in 2011.
He would live up to the expectations, and then some. Karlsson would play in all but just one game last year, smashing club records for most points for a defenseman (78), and tying a franchise record for most goals as a Defenseman (19). Th defenseman would also take home his first hardware of his young career. Karlsson narrowly beat out Nashville Predators star blue liner Shea Weber to win the Norris Trophy, the award for the NHL’s top Defenseman, as well as the Viking Award for the best Swedish player in North America. After three strong seasons, the Senators management felt it was time to reward their budding star. On June 19th, the two parties agreed to a seven year extension worth $45.5 million.
A contract of that length and cap hit shows a serious commitment from the organization, a commitment that the Senators hope will pay off.
They have little reason to worry.
While topping last year’s stats will certainly be a daunting task, Karlsson is certainly capable. He possesses a wicked slapshot, and will certainly be utilized more on the power play this year than ever before. With the short manned opposition already having to deal with Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris, expect to see Karlsson cash in with a lot of goals from the point. This may also be the year we see Karlsson establish himself physically. Despite his 5-11, 175 lbs. build, Karlsson is an extremely chippy player, and will be agitating forwards around the league. At just age 22, his youthfulness will allow him to preserve through the wear and tear that comes with playing in the NHL, and stay healthy well into the latter portion of the season.
Expect Erik Karlsson to be one of the league’s most talked about names for years to come.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky.