By Adam Brady
The phrase “living the dream” has become a cliché that’s usually uttered tongue-in-cheek, but for young William Karlsson, it’s been a fact of life over the past week.
After making his NHL debut for the Ducks in Detroit on October 11, the 21-year-old Swedish center scored his first NHL goal last Monday in Buffalo. He added another one later in the game, a 5-1 victory for Anaheim. A night later, he scored in the third round of a shootout to clinch a 4-3 Ducks victory in Philadelphia.
|“It’s been something special,” Karlsson says of the past week. “It’s been a good start to the season. I can’t complain.” |
“It’s been something special,” says the soft-spoken Karlsson, who grew up in Märsta, Sweden. “It’s been a good start to the season. I can’t complain.”
Karlsson is a little more effusive when he talks about that night in Buffalo, when he scored the goal he’ll likely never forget the rest of his life, then tallied another one for good measure.
“It’s like a dream come true,” he says. “I was going for the third one too, actually, trying to get the hat trick. But I’ll settle for two. Just to get those was amazing. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
That first goal gave a glimpse into Karlsson’s seemingly endless potential, as he received a pass in the slot from fellow Swede Hampus Lindholm, kicked it to his stick and unleashed a wicked wrister that sizzled past goalie Michal Neuvirth.
“I stepped on the puck, and I don’t really know what I did after that,” he says with a smirk. “I just kind of backed up, closed my eyes and shot it.”
His second goal was more workmanlike, as he punched in a rebound out of mid-air. The following night, another sharp wrist shot beat goalie Steve Mason to polish off the shootout. Karlsson actually admits that those impressive shots are misleading.
|“I haven’t had a really good shot. I don’t know where it’s come from,” he says with a laugh. The best part of his game? “I like to think of myself as a smart player.” |
“I haven’t had a really good shot. I don’t know where it’s come from,” he says with a laugh.
So what is the best part of his game? “People say that I’m smart,” he says. “I like to think of myself as a smart player.” And yet he admits that as a student in school back in Sweden, “I was average. I’m smart on the ice.”
His coach, Bruce Boudreau, agrees. “He’s smart without the puck and he certainly knows what to do with the puck,” Boudreau says.
It was a mild surprise that Boudreau tapped Karlsson on the shoulder for the fourth round of that shootout in Philadelphia, a move he said he made mostly because the Ducks had a chance to win it on that shot.
“[Philadelphia] went first so I knew who was going first,” Boudreau said. “If it was for the tie, I wouldn’t have put William out there. He’s young. Why put him under that scrutiny? But for the win, I went with William. If he misses, we’re still in the game.”
Karlsson, who wasn’t locked in to make the opening night roster, earned a spot with a strong training camp. He’s joked that he never actually got official word that he had made the team, but felt fairly confident when he joined the team October 7 on their way to the opening night game in Pittsburgh.
"When I sat on the plane,” he says, “I was like, Okay, I might be on the roster now.
|“He’s a very calm, down-to-earth guy,” says, shown here after Karlsson's first NHL goal. “Always has a smile on his face. He’s fun to be around, and he’s a good player too." |
That was nice to see for fellow young Swede Hampus Lindholm, who has been paired with Karlsson as roommates on the road. (In Anaheim, Karlsson rooms for now with young defenseman Shea Theodore at an area hotel.)
“He’s a very calm, down-to-earth guy,” Lindholm says. “Always has a smile on his face. He’s fun to be around, and he’s a good player too. He’s a really good dude.”
And in his short time with the Ducks, he’s endeared himself to teammates enough to earn the nickname “Wild Bill.”
"I don't actually know where it comes from,” Karlsson says. “Our Strength and Conditioning Coach [Sean Skahan] just started calling me 'Wild Bill' and then everybody else picked it up. I'm ‘Wild Bill’ forever, I guess."
It’s an ironic moniker considering Karlsson is, as one writer described him, “more One Direction than Wild Wild West" (partly because of his blond locks combed into the type of hairstyle hockey players and fans would refer to as a "sick flow").
Indeed, Karlsson has embraced his resemblance to members of the ultra-popular British Boy band. His demonstrative pose for a red carpet photo before the Ducks’ home opener was Photoshopped by a Ducks staff member into a One Direction photo (below) to make Karlsson look like part of the band. Karlsson liked it so much, he uses as his Twitter cover photo
Right now, Karlsson’s primary direction is onward and upward, and he’s loving every moment of his time in Orange County.
“It’s really nice,” he says. “I’m loving it here. “I always say, it’s another day in paradise."