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Erik Karlsson to get shot at Sens blue line

by Amanda Nigh / Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson dons his Sens jersey at the the 2008 NHL Entry Draft last June in Ottawa. The Senators selected the young Swedish defenceman 15th overall.

The t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted on an entry-level contract that will see Erik Karlsson, the Senators’ top pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, compete for a permanent spot on the Ottawa blue line.

Karlsson is a gifted defenceman who has great vision for the game and the ability to move the puck. Senators general manager Bryan Murray says he has the skills and hockey sense to compete in the NHL.

“Erik is a special player, power-play guy, an offensive guy; he would certainly address a need on our blue line,” he says. “The last two months of the season in the Elite League he was really good. We will give him a chance; the odds are pretty good for him.”

At 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds last June, it was obvious that Karlsson needed to add some bulk to his slender frame in order to compete night after night in the NHL.

“Right now I am doing everything I can to get bigger and stronger and to improve my overall development,” says Karlsson. “Only time will tell where I am going to play next year.”

Murray admits that Karlsson’s size will play a factor in management’s decision come the fall.

“Without a doubt, his head and hands are terrific,” says Murray.

But can he handle the everyday traffic of the NHL?

“I want him to be a full-time NHLer," added Murray. "Maybe to start the year, we have to look at just doing the offensive part of it and then we will see where that leaves us. Size is an issue. It always is in our league.”

When asked if he believes if he is ready to play in the NHL, Karlsson is the first to suggest he doesn’t know what to expect.

“I haven’t played in the NHL, so I can’t really say what it is like to play in the league," he said. "I am doing everything I can to be a part of the Senators’ future, if not next year, the year after that.”

Karlsson’s contract leaves him and management with a variety of options come September.

“At this point, I’m not sure where he will be to start the season,” says Murray. “We would consider Frolunda (Swedish Elite League) or the American Hockey League, but first of all we are going to consider the NHL. We have an agreement in place with Erik that if things aren’t where we want them to be or where he wants them to be, we have the option to assign him to either of the two teams.”

Karlsson will join the other prospects within the Senators organization for the annual development camp in late June. To date, “we haven’t really discussed what I am going to do after development camp,” says Karlsson. “I will attend the camp and then we will have to make a decision based on what is going to be the best way for me to improve my strength. If it is in Ottawa, I will stay. If we believe Sweden is the best place for me to develop, I will go back to Sweden. That is another decision we will have to make.”


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