Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson Is A Better Defenseman Than P.K. Subban

By Randy Holt
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

“Pretend Karlsson”.

That’s all you really need to know about how Ottawa Senators fans feel about P.K. Subban when it comes down to comparing two of the best young blue liners in the league. With the Sens facing off against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re going to be hearing plenty about this.

There’s no doubt that P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson are two of the best young defensemen in the league. Both bring an electricity to the ice with their game that is very uncommon in the game, at least on the blue line. But is there a clear cut advantage for either one?

We’ve already taken a look at what makes Subban a better defenseman. His ability to play with an edge, block shots, and overall play in the defensive zone may have given him a slight edge when talking about the all-around game. But that’s only one opinion.

Karlsson is the best offensive defenseman in the league. There’s no questioning that. We’re talking about a guy that put 78 points up on the stat sheet from the blue line last season, including 19 goals. Some teams wish some of their forwards scored 19 goals in a season. Of his 78, 28 of them came on the power play.

We know he can put up points. But it goes beyond that for the Senators. This team is just better when he’s on the ice. They control the puck and see more offensive opportunities. As the Norris Trophy winner last season, Karlsson’s Corsi was well over plus-12. In 17 games this season, he was plus-22. Obviously not as large of a sample size, but still a significant number.

Defensively, while Subban may have the edge given his ability to play a tougher style if he has to, there isn’t that large of a difference. It also helps that the Senators get off about 22 more shots with Karlsson on the ice than with him off the ice, which means a heavy amount of time being spent in the offensive zone. Makes preventing goals quite a bit easier.

There’s no doubt that the numbers between the two are similar. But Karlsson has the hardware to prove that he’s the better of the two. He plays against the better competition and is the superior offensive defenseman. Given the fact that he’s already won a Norris Trophy, it’s hard to go against him in the debate of the best young defenseman in the Northeast Division.

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