Check your score card, kids. The Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson is the league’s leading defencemen in points. Sure, he’s been leading for quite some time now, and substantially, but who’s watching?
At 19th overall with 37 points, he’s already matched last year’s assist total of 32.
He’s been a great asset for the Senators in spinning around a flat start to the season, manning the top blue line pairing with Filip Kuba.
The Senators have climbed out of the basement of the Eastern Conference — and from last of Canada’s seven teams — to sixth in the East for playoff contention early on — and are second of Canada’s seven with 45 points, second to the Vancouver Canucks at 51 points.
It’s looking like the Sens are turning heads with the coaching style of Paul MacLean.
But what makes Karlsson so different this year?
“Karlsson’s similarities to Lidstrom probably end with their Swedish birth certificates. A more suitable Norris role model for Karlsson is Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks’ wheel man who earned top defenceman honours in 2010.
Keith can flat out fly, and so can Karlsson. Neither player is going to intimidate anyone physically, Keith generously listed at six-foot-one, 196 pounds while Karlsson is six-feet, 180 with his equipment soaking wet.”
Unfortunately, for Karlsson, finding his strides at an elite level in his third professional year, may not qualify for Norris consideration. Even a consideration. That’s according to the Ottawa Citizen:
“But will members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) have Karlsson’s name in mind when they lay down their Norris Trophy votes in April?
Not likely. And yet the soaring level of Karlsson’s play, not to mention the point totals he is amassing, have to at least put him in the conversation when it is time to discuss the NHL’s top defencemen.
Just a couple of months ago, the idea of Karlsson getting Norris consideration would have been laughable. At 21, in his third NHL season, Karlsson was routinely losing physical battles and getting caught out of position.”
Perhaps Karlsson’s journey this season will be a slow and steady progression. Let’s watch him connect with the sports writers at the All-Star game, the playoffs (if the Senators can keep pace), and then he’ll be that sparkling image of a Norris-calibur defenceman.