|Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson, the Senators' top pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is looking forward to a bright future in Ottawa (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
will get his first look at a National Hockey League game tonight.
Soon enough, he'd like to play in one himself.
There will be an extra buzz in the air at Scotiabank Place this evening, when the Senators' top pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft takes in Ottawa's game against the New Jersey Devils.
Karlsson will be seeing an NHL game for the first time and his appearance figures to fuel talk about when the gifted Swedish blueliner will suit up in a Sens uniform.
The 18-year-old Karlsson can't say for sure just yet but he hopes to get a better read on his future during discussions with Senators management while he's in Ottawa.
"Hopefully, we're going to talk about it when I'm here," said Karlsson. "It's a hard decision for me to make and it's going to make an impact for the rest of my life. So I have to think this through. I still don't know what's going to happen
"I've improved a lot as a hockey player and even off the ice (since last year). But it's a big step to go from Elitserien (Elite League) back in Sweden to playing in the NHL. So I have to think this through and see if I'm ready to play or not."
For Senators general manager Bryan Murray, the first order of business is getting Karlsson's name on a contract. Then plans can be made to have Karlsson attend training camp in September and possibly earn a spot on the team.
"We haven't talked contract or anything like that at this point," said Murray, mindful of the fact that Karlsson's contract with the Frolunda Indians has yet to expire (the team was just eliminated from the Swedish Elite League playoffs in the semifinals). "But if he wants to come, we'll get it done."
Karlsson is hardly unfamiliar with Scotiabank Place. It's the building in which he was selected 15th overall in the NHL entry draft last June. He was also a standout for Sweden at the IIHF 2009 World Junior Championship, being named the top defenceman in the tournament. The Tre Kronor rolled through the tournament unbeaten until falling to Canada 5-1 in the gold-medal game.
"The world juniors were a great thing for everybody. It meant a lot for me to come over here and play," said Karlsson, who takes pride in Sweden's achievement in the tournament. "It was good that we played a final here in front of 20,000 fans, even though they weren't our fans. Still, it was a big game and we will remember it for a very long time.
"It's a hard decision for me to make and it's going to make an impact for the rest of my life. So I have to think this through. I still don't know what's going to happen." - Erik Karlsson
"It's not bad to come second at the world juniors. Now we have two silvers in a row. The years before that, we ended up fifth or sixth every year. So we've improved a lot as a country. It's still good to have silver."
Karlsson can't wait for the day when he'll have 20,000 fans in Hockey Country on his side. But he wants to be an impact player when that time comes.
"I'm going to play here someday for sure," he said. "It's just that I want to come over here and feel like I can do something for the team that's good.
"When I come over, I want to be ready to play 82 games and hopefully more in the playoffs ... and be the best I can be every game."