|Erik Karlsson is ready to take his best shot at landing a spot on the Senators blue line when training camp opens in September at Scotiabank Place (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
All eyes will be on Erik Karlsson
when the Ottawa Senators gather again in September for the opening of another training camp.
Not to mention a lot of hopes and dreams.
Already, many are looking toward the slick Swede to be the puck-moving saviour for the Senators’ blue-line brigade. If that seems like a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of a 19-year-old rookie … well, this is a guy who doesn’t lack for confidence in himself or his game. And the player who was voted the top defenceman at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa is more than ready for the next challenge.
“I’ll do everything I can to make the team,” said Karlsson, the Senators’ top pick (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. “If I come over here in September and it feels good and it feels like I have a spot, I will probably stay. If it’s not (best for) my development to be here next year, I probably won’t and that’s fine by me. I will just go wherever I go and work even harder to make the team another time.”
Since the day he was drafted, Karlsson’s size has been the issue. He’s 5-foot-11 and tipped the scales at 157 pounds a year ago, but he’s added 12 pounds to his frame since then. Karlsson also believes he’s improved his strength level greatly.
“I just do my best (to gain weight),” said Karlsson, who spent last season with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League. “I’m a small guy, so I don’t think those (added pounds) will make my mobility any worse. I feel really strong now if I compare myself to last year and last season. So I think this summer will be a good summer for me.”
There is no doubting the elite-level skills that Karlsson brings to the table.
“He’s an offensive defenceman, with good hands, a good shot and good offensive instincts,” said Brent Flahr, the Senators’ director of hockey operations. “His skill package can’t be taught. He has an innate ability to get his shot on net and create plays out of nothing. He’s a very talented kid with a great upside.”
Karlsson intends to work hard on every aspect of his game to realize that potential.
“I need to get better offensively,” he said. “Even though I think I’m pretty good (in that area), I still need to pick that part of my game up. Of course, I need to work on the defensive zone a little bit, too. Every part of my game, I need to step up a bit.”
"I’ll do everything I can to make the team. If I come over here in September and it feels good and it feels like I have a spot, I will probably stay. If it's not (best for) my development to be here next year, I probably won't be and that's fine by me. I will just go wherever I go and work even harder to make the team another time." - Erik Karlsson
Senators management can already envision the day when the offensively gifted Karlsson lines up alongside 6-foot-5 Jared Cowen
, the team’s top pick in the 2009 entry draft. Assistant general manager Tim Murray believes it can be an ideal match because “they complement each other greatly.”
“Erik is the offensive power-play quarterback and I think Jared Cowen
is the shutdown guy,” said Murray. “He’s a big guy that can skate, he’s going to be very hard to play against and he takes up a lot of space and time.
“It’ll allow Erik to get up the ice and play his type of game knowing that the big guy is back there covering him and we’re not going to get burned by it. I think they’ll be great together.”
Though the biggest cheers weren’t for him at the time, Karlsson said the excitement surrounding the world juniors fuelled his desire to soon make Ottawa and Scotiabank Place his permanent hockey home.
“Even though I was only here for the world juniors, I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “It’s a really good hockey city to play in and I love that. I like the fans. They’re very important for us and it’s a big factor in why I want to come (to Ottawa).
“It’s a great feeling to be here and play here.”