Erik Karlsson was in the midst of the 300-yard shuffle earlier this week.
Then, his shoes ripped.
“They looked [bad],” he said of his now-trashed Adidas pair, smiling. “The whole side was just a hole.”
Canes’ Head Athletic Trainer Pete Friesen was able to get him a new, more reliable pair. Buying good shoes: one of the many lessons Karlsson has already learned during the Carolina Hurricanes’ week-long conditioning camp.
“The rest. Going to sleep earlier,” he said. “It’s a tough test each day.”
Perhaps neither is the most important piece of information he’ll take from this experience, even if his stall-mate and fellow draft pick Trevor Carrick teased him about his shoes.
For the 17-year-old, Lerum, Sweden native, the most important aspect of this week is getting a taste of the North American game. Playing in Sweden’s top professional hockey league Elitserien, Karlsson has grown up with a style focused more on finesse and playmaking.
He’s quickly noticed the pronounced difference in the North American game, even just in drills and light scrimmages.
“The game over here is tougher,” he said. “There are a lot more hits, and it’s a tougher game.”
Listed at 6-feet and 162 pounds, Karlsson is currently built more for the European game. His size is likely the reason teams passed over him in the draft, as the Canes picked him 99th overall in the fourth round. He’s got the hands and the speed but needs to pack on some strength to be able to handle the rigors of the NHL.
Knowing this, he’ll head back to Sweden with a certain goal in mind.
“There are big guys [here], and everyone is really good,” he said. “Now I know how they play over here, so I will go home and work on that.”
Karlsson, who was the only European-born player selected by the Canes in the draft and, consequently, the only one at camp, signed a one-year contract with Frolunda. He will play in Sweden for at least another season and may explore the option of playing in North America after that.
“I’m going to think about it. I like everything here. It’s great,” he said. “So we will see next year what’s happening.”
In just four games with Frolunda’s Under-18 team last season, Karlsson exploded for 10 points (3g, 7a). With Frolunda’s junior team, where Karlsson spent the majority of the season, he recorded 14 goals and 19 assists (33 points).
Next season, Karlsson said he hopes to play around 10 games with Frolunda’s elite team and the rest with their junior squad. He also has plans of making the cut for Sweden’s World Junior team.
“That would be a great experience and really fun,” he said.
Karlsson already has international experience under his belt, as he skated on Sweden’s silver-medal-winning national team in the Under-18 Worlds. In six tournament games, he had 3 points (1g, 2a) and was a plus-2.
During his week-long stay in North Carolina – which, combined with Pittsburgh for the draft weekend, is his first time in the States – Karlsson is soaking up all he can manage at and away from the rink.
The weather, for instance, is nicer here, he said. Hot, but nicer.
“It’s cold in Sweden,” he said. “Here, it’s about 100 degrees.”