The NHL talk of the town all off-season was the future of Erik Karlsson. That conversation has died down mostly, save for a few errant tweets stirring the proverbial dung. As the season approaches and hockey media outlets try their damndest to predict this coming season’s outcome(s), the likely regression of William Karlsson will become a more pressing topic. In San Jose, meanwhile, the Sharks have their own Karlsson to be excited about (and sorry, it’s not Melker).
On Emmanuel Perry’s list of every forward currently under the age of 19 who was technically eligible for the 2018 draft, Linus Karlsson, the Sharks’ third-round pick, ranks tied for 35 in terms of potential upside (WAR/82 in the NHL). That list is 1,752 names long and features names like Andrei Svechnikov, Vitali Kravstov, Filip Zadina, and Martin Kaut at or near the top. Karlsson’s 58 percent chance of making the NHL according to that model places him in even more rarefied air: 14th among that same group of 1,700+ teenage forwards.
Karlsson — a 6-foot-1, 187-pound center from Eksjö, Sweden — scored 56 points in 48 SuperElit games (including playoffs) last season. It’s important to note that those points were not empty calories, though he did acquire a healthy proportion on the power play.
Betweenness — a measure of a player’s impact on his team’s scoring network — shows how much a given player relied on his teammates to score primary points. This is a list of the top 25 players in the entire SuperElit league last season, so many of the skaters listed here are a year or so older than Karlsson. In terms of even-strength scoring impact, Karlsson ranked among the top 20 skaters in his entire league. In all situations, thanks to his extra man contributions, Karlsson ranked ninth. This is all to say that his draft year season, which included one assist in 14 SHL games, was quite impressive.
top 25 SuperElit players in 2017-18 according to even strength betweenness (scoring influence)— Evan Oppenheimer (@OppenheimerEvan) July 1, 2018
Marcus Karlberg and Linus Karlsson at 18th and 19th, respectively. Jonatan Berggren is 36th. Dominik Bokk is 44th. pic.twitter.com/YDxcyrTGs0
Emmanuel Perry’s model, which was referenced above, is not the only method of statistical comparison to look upon Karlsson favorably. The model Jeremy Davis of Canucks Army developed only gave Karlsson a 23 percent chance of making the NHL thanks to this 2017-18 season. But Davis also found that Karlsson was involved in 41 percent of his team’s 5-on-5 goals, the highest such mark of any prospect Davis and Co. evaluated. Karlsson’s most-common teammates except one all produced better results when skating alongside the Sharks prospect.
NHL players who have put together similar statistical seasons in the SuperElit league include Jesper Fast, Jakob Silfverberg, Gustav Nyquist, and Carl Hagelin. If Karlsson turns into the next Silfverberg, well, that’s a third-round pick well spent.
What we like
Per the information on Karlsson’s EliteProspects profile page, Draftin Europe scouts believe his strengths include a “nice shot and combines that with his ability to read developing holes in the offensive zone” and has a “quality game from faceoff dots to end-boards.” Karlsson positively impacts his teammates while consistently adding to his own stat sheet. He impressed many around the Swedish hockey world last season and was at one point rumored to be a trade target of the SHL’s Rögle and 2017-18 league champion Växjö Lakers teams. For his hard work, Karlsson was named the SuperElit’s best forward. The Sharks picked Karlsson in the pick #40-100 range, which is typically where teams outperform Central Scouting rankings, especially when their picks diverge from the rankings. Karlsson has all the statistical makings of a star who was looked over a few times too many.
Areas of Improvement
According to The Athletic’s Corey Pronman, Karlsson could stand to work on his skating. At just 178 pounds, Karlsson will also likely need to spend some time lifting heavy weights and eating lots of protein in an attempt to add a little extra muscle to his frame as he heads into his first full professional season.
Here, Karlsson notices his team has collected the puck safely in its own zone, so he heads up ice looking for the stretch pass. The pass connects — and here you can see where concerns about his skating come from — and Karlsson takes off toward the opposing net. He’s calm and steady on his skates during his approach and tosses just the right amount of dangles into the mix before finishing off the play in style. Soft hands. Concentration, not strength.