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Karlberg could be the next big Blue Jackets prospect in a small package

Swedish prospect currently skating in World Junior Summer Showcase

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Over the years, the Blue Jackets have found plenty of big things in small packages. 

At 5-foot-8, Cam Atkinson just rewrote the record books a year ago, tying Rick Nash for the most goals in a single season with 41.  

Atkinson is now the second-leading scorer in franchise history, one spot ahead of David Vyborny, who measured 5-10 but still had 317 points in his Columbus career.  

The man known as "The Wizard," Ray Whitney, was also 5-10 and considered small for his day, but he averaged nearly a point per game in Union Blue and finished his 22-year NHL career with more than 1,000 points.  

And as the game gets smaller and faster, the Blue Jackets haven't been afraid to draft players who are on the short side of 6 feet tall. The 5-7 Trey Fix-Wolansky has garnered most of the headlines after lighting up the WHL a season ago, but 5-8 Swedish prospect Marcus Karlberg could also be in line to be a future CBJ standout. 

Taken with the team's third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Karlberg is already learning how to be an elite player despite his slight frame.  

"Of course," he said when asked if it's something he has to overcome. "You have to get stronger. I try to find other ways (to succeed) on the ice. I'm pretty fast, but I'm small, so I need to find other paths than bigger players do. 

"That's something I learned this season, and I kind of learned how to play against the men more. That's probably why it took a while before it started to work out for me, but it went good in the end of the season." 

Indeed, Karlberg's first post-draft season in the Leksands IF system was up and down, but it certainly finished better than it started. One year after posting 47 points in 39 games with Leksands' SuperElit (U-20) team, he was back at that level midway through the campaign, posting four goals and 12 points in 11 games.  

Eventually, Leksands fired its coach and brought in longtime Swedish mentor Roger Melin, and the organization promoted Karlberg to its senior team full-time. By the end of the season, the 19-year-old had a 4-7-11 line with the senior squad and a 1-3-4 line in 12 postseason games as the team earned promotion from Allsvenskan -- the second level of pro hockey in Sweden -- to the Swedish Hockey League this upcoming season.  

"I started to play better, the team started to play better, and in the end I played my best hockey as the team did as well, and we ended up getting promoted to the SHL," he said earlier this summer while taking part in the Blue Jackets' annual development camp. "It was a great season after all." 

Considering his scoring ability throughout his junior career, Karlberg is still thought of as one of the top young prospects in Sweden, one thing confirmed by his selection to the country's World Junior Summer Showcase roster this summer. The tournament featuring some of the best U-20 talent in the world is taking place right now in Plymouth, Mich., and Karlberg scored an impressive end-to-end goal Sunday against one of the two American squads in the event.  

It's the kind of skilled goal that Karlberg can help create, and the prospect didn't shy away from his offensive abilities when asked about what his best attributes are on the ice.  

"I would say game sense and speed, so that's what I'm trying to bring anytime I'm on the ice," he said. "Set up plays and make plays with my skating." 

Karlberg just has to keep it under control, something the talented dynamo sometimes forgets. It's something that Blue Jackets European development coach Jarkko Ruutu often reminds him of while taking in his games in his native Sweden. 

"He comes to many games, and one of my Achilles' heels is I want to do too much," Karlberg said. "I skate too much in situations and I go 110 percent. He tells me I need to cool down and pucks will come to you. That has helped a lot." 

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