|In just his third season, Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson likes the idea of taking on a mentorship role for some of his new teammates when the 2011-12 season gets underway (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
A wily old veteran, he most surely is not.
No wonder, then, that Erik Karlsson
can hardly supress a wide grin when it's suggested that he'll make major gains in terms of roster seniority in the season to come. But heading into his third season with the Ottawa Senators, the 21-year-old blueliner figures to see plenty of rather green newcomers taking up regular duty around him.
And he's more than willing to show the newbies the ropes when the Senators set sail into the 2011-12 campaign in a little over a month's time.
"I think it's going to be exciting for everybody," he said of the vastly revamped and more youthful roster the Senators will ice this fall. "I'm really looking forward to being one of the guys that's going to look after some (new) guys, maybe. Even though I'm still young, I think I like that role and I'm really looking forward to getting the season going now."
Karlsson, who arrived back in Ottawa about a week ago to begin preparations for the season, had a himself a ready-made mentor during his rookie year in veteran captain Daniel Alfredsson
. They're both Swedes and graduates of the Frolunda program in Goteborg, and their joining forces in Ottawa offered just the right transition for a teenage talent aiming to get his feet wet in the National Hockey League.
Now Karlsson believes it's his turn to offer a guiding hand to young Swedes such as fellow blueliner David Runblad, centre Mika Zibanejad
— the Sens' top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — and forward Andre Petersson, a friend since their childhood days back home in Sweden.
"I remember how much (Alfredsson) meant to me when I came here," Karlsson said at the Bell Sensplex, where he made a guest appearance as part of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Camps. "Even though I haven't been here as long as he had when I got here, I still think it's good for the (new) guys coming in here to speak their own language sometimes and be able to ask (for advice) if there's anything they need to know.
"They come over for a barbecue every once in a while. We had lunch yesterday, everybody. I think it's good for everyone, even me, to have them here. It gives you a bit of comfort."
Karlsson and Rundblad, who were teammates on the siver-medal winning Swedish entry at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa, already are drawing plenty of comparisons. Both are offensive-minded rearguards, with the 20-year-old Rundblad — obtained from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the Senators' first-round pick in the 2010 draft — expected to be in the blue-line mix right away.
"I remember how much (Alfredsson) meant to me when I came here. Even though I haven't been here as long as he had when I got here, I still think it's good for the guys coming in here to speak their own language sometimes and be able to ask (for advice) if there's anything they need to know. I think it's good for everyone, even me, to have them here. It gives you a bit of comfort." - Erik Karlsson
"We kind of do the same thing out there," said Karlsson. "There's some similarities and some not so similarities. He's a good hockey player. He showed that last year (when Rundblad earned the Borje Salming Award as the Swedish Elite League's top defenceman) and he showed that two years ago. Whatever he does, he does it good, and I think he's going to have a good year this year."
While he doesn't know Zibanejad as well, Karlsson believes the 18-year-old has a bright future.
"He's a big, strong guy with a lot of technique," said Karlsson. "He's a smart player as well and, with time, he's going to be an outstanding player."
As for his own game, Karlsson believes he's a stronger player heading into 2011-12 and aims to bring more consistency to the table. A year ago, he racked up 13 goals and 45 points in 75 games en route to becoming the Senators' lone representative at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C.
"With a young team now, you've got to show you can be good every night and be professional," he said. "That's what I've been preparing for and, hopefully, it works. I've been preparing all summer for this and I'm really excited to be back."
Karlsson predicts Senators fans will like what they see from their new-look team.
"I think it will be a good year for us," he said. "We have a lot of young guys, but we've still got the veterans we need. It's going to be an exciting year to watch. We'll be a fun team to watch and we're going to play some good hockey."