There’s a phrase that Swedes use for people who are from the friendly city of Gothenberg, go och glad, which translates to ‘good and happy.’

And even though Erik Karlsson didn’t grow up in Gothenberg, moving there as a teenager to play for the Frölunda organization, he seems like a native to Marcus Pettersson – as that term describes the new Penguins defenseman perfectly.

“He’s the essence of that,” Pettersson said. “He always has so much energy, just so happy… he’s coming to the rink and he’s got energy, and you feed off of that.”

When the Penguins acquired the superstar blueliner in a three-team trade back in August, the trade took the hockey world by storm, just from what Karlsson can do from an on-ice perspective, and there’s so much anticipation to see him in black and gold.

In ESPN’s NHL Superstar Poll, both Dylan Larkin and Jacob Trouba named the Penguins as the team they’re most excited to watch this year, citing the addition of Karlsson. Earlier this week, Sidney Crosby had to shake his head when talking about his new teammate, who’s coming off the best year of his Hall of Fame career, winning his third Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. “He put up 100 points, that’s crazy,” the captain said.

But what Karlsson can bring off the ice with his outgoing personality, especially after a disappointing season for the Penguins franchise that fell short of expectations, should also have a huge impact.

Karlsson is incredibly friendly and makes everyone around him instantly feel at ease, quick with smiles, laughs, and quips. “Just right away, it feels like you’ve known the guy for 10 years when you meet him,” Pettersson said, which was evident as Karlsson went through stations at the team’s annual Creative Day, charming people from every facet of the organization.

He’s confident and self-assured, but also down-to-earth and personable – someone who likes fashion and dressing well, but also jokes about how his shirts don’t survive the mornings after taking care of his kids. He’s extremely competitive, but also has a healthy perspective – and it feels like Karlsson’s own unique disposition will be an excellent complement to the dynamic of Pittsburgh’s core leadership group.

“I’m looking forward to having fun here,” Karlsson said. “That’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, the wins come from that. If you don’t have fun, you can’t do much, right? It doesn’t matter what you do, we gotta have some fun, and we gotta work hard.”

Karlsson feels last season’s performance came from rediscovering the joy in the game he’s loved to play since he was a little boy. Part of that comes from simply being healthy again after experiencing his fair share of injuries, and part of that comes from being in a good place in his personal life.

Erik and his wife Melinda have two small children, daughter Harlow and son Stellan, who are getting to a point where they can understand what Dad does for a living. But of course, for kids their age, the mascots are bigger stars than the players – and Harlow had a particularly close bond with SJ Sharkie during the Karlssons’ time out west.

The Sharks shared an adorable video of SJ Sharkie visiting the Karlsson home in California before they packed up for the move to Pittsburgh, bringing a rose for Harlow and playing with toys in the house and in the backyard as part of a heartwarming farewell visit.

“She was really, really into Sharkie. She loved Baby Shark, and being with the Sharks kind of just worked out that way,” Karlsson smiled. “But she knows she’s a Penguin now, she understands that. I think it's going to be good for her to see something different. In general, she just likes costumes and big things, so Iceburgh is going to be a huge hit, too. We're excited for that.”

Karlsson arrived in town about 10 days ago, with his family following a week later. In the days before they got here, Karlsson, who is signed through the 2026-27 season, used that time to get acclimated to the city he’ll call home for the next few years – particularly the golf courses.

He’d played Oakmont in the past, and has since played it again – “obviously, that’s number one,” Karlsson said with a grin. He's also visited the courses at Pittsburgh Field Club, St. Clair Country Club, and Allegheny Country Club, “and I'm hoping to get maybe one or two more in before things get real serious around here,” he smiled.

Karlsson has also gone shopping at Whole Foods and looked for new restaurants, though he probably won’t be finding his beloved Swedish kebabpizza anytime soon. “That’s the best. The Swedes are going to know what I’m talking about,” Karlsson said. Goaltender Magnus Hellberg, nearby at the time, vigorously agreed.

But generally, Karlsson has been trying to meet and spend quality time with teammates, mostly new and some old, like Matt Nieto, who played with him in San Jose. “It was nice to be here for a little bit and just to kind of get acclimated around the locker room and meet everybody on a more personal level,” Karlsson said. “Been competing against most of them for a long time, so it’s nice to be teammates.”

Karlsson admitted that even though everyone has been wonderful, the whole process can be a little bit overwhelming, even for a veteran like himself.

“But I also know how that is. That will pass. Kind of just have to go through it,” he said. “But it's nice now that my family's here and we're all somewhat settled in the house, and I'm excited to kind of get the routines going again, and get this adventure on its way.”

Karlsson is at the point of his career where winning is an important priority, and that’s what led to him coming over from the struggling Sharks, with San Jose general manager Mike Grier willing to move the 33-year-old to a contender out of respect. Karlsson knows there is a terrific opportunity here, and his anticipation level is high for that, but also to continue evolving his game and growing as a person and a player.

“I feel like no matter what team I've been on, good or bad, it feels like you want to come in fresh every year,” Karlsson said. “I love starting every year because every year is so different, you know? The last season is history, and you can't really bring anything with you, except maybe a little bit of confidence, hopefully. Always try to build for something new.”