26-Year-Old Defenseman – Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson Contract Information:
Signed a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the Senators in June of 2012.
Karlsson earned helpers on both Ottawa goals in Thursday's 3-2 Game 7 double-overtime loss to the Penguins.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
With his second Norris Trophy now on the mantle, Karlsson can lay claim to being both the best fantasy defenseman and the best defenseman in general. He's coming off his second consecutive 20-goal season -- making him the first blueliner to accomplish that since Ray Bourque and Jeff Brown both did it in 1991-92 and 1992-93. And Karlsson seemingly never tires despite being a near lock to play 82 games in every season (or, well, every season that isn't shortened by a freak Achilles tear) while hovering among the league leaders in ice time. Draft him early, plug him into your lineup on a permanent basis, and enjoy another year of spectacular work by the NHL's most dominant blueliner. Heck, he's only 25 years old -- he could still find another gear. That's a scary thought.
Karlsson bounced back from the torn Achilles' tendon he suffered in 2013 by leading all NHL defensemen in scoring last season, supplying 13 more points than the nearest competitor. The 2013-14 season marked the second time the blueliner has broken the 70-point barrier -- and he's still just 24 years old. Karlsson is easily the most valuable fantasy player on the Sens roster, and should be paired with Marc Methot once again this season, giving him a solid defensive counterpart on the back end. That being said, there are still some holes in Karlsson's game -- he's not the best defensively, and although he easily manages to outscore his mistakes, the minus-16 rating he finished with last season lingers as a potential drain to his value. Karlsson did start playing on the penalty kill last season, though, so if he can continue to improve his game in his own end, he could quite easily gain more buzz for Norris Trophies in years to come.
Karlsson had one of the all-time great seasons in 2011-12 when he racked up 78 points in 81 games. He just turned 23, and even though he's coming off a major injury (torn Achilles' tendon), there's no reason not to rank him as by far the best defenseman on the draft board. After suffering the injury, it was expected that Karlsson would miss four-to-six months, but made an astounding return in just over two. He anchored the blueline in the playoffs, playing big minutes and captaining the power play once again. The eight points he notched in 10 playoff games should erase any doubts that he'll be fully healthy when the puck drops in October, and ready to prove once again that he's far and away the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.
Karlsson was arguably last year's biggest surprise, at least to those who didn’t follow the Senators that closely before the 2011-12 season. After posting 45 points and a minus-30 rating in 75 games in 2010-11, Karlsson exploded for 19 goals and 59 assists in 81 games, finishing with a respectable plus-16 rating. In fact, what may surprise many is that 50 of his 78 points came at even strength, which clearly illustrates that he’s not just a one-dimensional “power play specialist.” At the end of the regular season there certainly was a strong anti-Karlsson vibe amongst the hockey cognoscenti when it came to voting for the Norris Trophy, but, in the end, Karlsson’s numbers and overall play were simply too strong too ignore: he was the first defenseman since Paul Coffey to finish in the top 10 in scoring and he lead all other defensemen in scoring by at least 25 points, the most in over 20 years. He’s the youngest Norris trophy winner since Bobby Orr, who won the trophy at the ripe old age of 20. So, what can fantasy owners expect from Karlsson this season? He should top 20 goals for the first time in his career and he should get at least 50 assists. Karlsson’s one of the most gifted skaters to come along in quite a while and possesses an elite hockey IQ and puck skills. He’ll play a ton of minutes on the powerplay and at even strength; look for head coach Paul MacLean to begin easing him into more penalty kill time as Karlsson will be another year stronger and smarter this season.
In a year of lows for the Senators, Karlsson was one of the team's few bright spots. Averaging a team high 23:30 of ice time per game, the now 21-year-old defenseman recorded 13 goals and 32 assists in 75 games. While his defensive game still needs a lot of work (Karlsson was a minus-30 last season), he does have the speed and smarts to play a solid positional game to shut down forwards and should improve in this aspect of his game as he gains more experience. Ottawa's lone representative at the 2011 All-Star Game, Karlsson is just scratching the surface of his potential as his skating, vision, shot, and puck skills are already at elite levels. He should be able to crack 50 points this year as he'll see a lot of time on the first power play unit and will likely lead the team in ice time again. Don't be surprised if he notches close to 20 goals and 35 assists in only his third full year in the league.
Karlsson had an outstanding finish to his 2009-10 rookie season and should be able to expand on it in the upcoming year. With the addition of Sergei Gonchar to Ottawa's blue line, the 20-year-old Karlsson will have an elite quarterback from which to learn from and that simple fact cannot be overlooked for his long-term development. He will likely quarterback Ottawa's second power play unit to the start the season, but could also see time on the first unit if Gonchar is injured at any point during the year. Karlsson is a tremendous skater and puck-handler, but also has the smarts and the vision to last a long time in the league. With some added muscle, the young Swede could quickly move into the elite of NHL quarterbacks in a few years time. Expect him to hit around 10 goals and 25 assists this year, but don't be surprised to see him break 40 points if he continues the strong play with which he ended last season.
Karlsson enters this season as one of Ottawa's best defensive prospects in years. The Sens would love for him to make the team out of training camp and he'll be given every opportunity to do so. As well, Jason Smith's recent retirement improves Karlsson's chances significantly. Karlsson's hockey IQ, confidence, on-ice vision and creativity are off the charts and all of that was on display in last year's U-20 world junior tournament, where he was named the tourney's best defenseman, ahead of fellow Swede Victor Hedman. While he's small for a defenseman, that doesn't mean he doesn't like to hit: Karlsson will lay out his man if given the opportunity. If he does make the team out of camp, Karlsson will likely be given a good amount of time on the power play, where his abilities can truly shine. He's got an accurate and quick wrist shot along with terrific passing ability, but he will need to work on his slap shot's accuracy a bit. Karlsson should be near or at the top of your list if you're looking for a young keeper on defense. He's a special player and if all goes well, 10 goals and 20 assists aren't out of the question.