Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman last season, and is on pace to make another run at the award in the shortened 2013 season. An All-Star in each of his first two full seasons, Karlsson already has three goals and three assists for the Ottawa Senators this season.
The Senators find themselves off to a 4-1-1 start, good for second place in the Northeast Division and on pace for a return to the playoffs. Karlsson is averaging more than 26 minutes of ice time this season, and has been very productive on the power play. He doesn’t take many penalties, which enables Ottawa to have him on the ice in all situations. Fellow defenseman Sergei Gonchar has also been productive this season, and his recent game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals was the 18th of his career, giving him the most among active defensemen.
During the lockout, Karlsson joined Jokerit Helsinki of the SM-liiga, where his nine goals and 34 points in 30 games led all defenseman. So far, the seven-year contract extension the team signed him to in the offseason looks like it may go down as one of the better bargains in team history.
Karlsson scored 19 goals and added 59 assists for the Senators last season, as the team narrowly missed the playoffs. His strong play, the goaltending of Craig Anderson and scoring from Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson could easily get the Senators back to the playoffs this season.