Top 25 Under 25: #20 Erik Karlsson

Position: Center/Wing
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 160 lbs.
4th Round, 2012
Age: 19
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Although he does share a name with the Ottawa Senators defenseman, Carolina's Erik Karlsson isn't nearly in the same class as him. They are also completely different players, as Ottawa's Karlsson is a fleet-footed defenseman while Carolina's projects to be a solid two-way forward. While it's clear that the one currently playing in Canada is the better player, this Erik Karlsson is a very solid prospect and he could turn out to be a nice find for them in the fourth round of last year's draft. 

Karlsson was ranked in the Top 60 of Corey Pronman's Top 100 Draft Prospects last year and was hailed for both his skating and his all-around game. In addition to being able to play all three forward positions, Karlsson brings a lot of international experience to the table, as Karlsson has played in six different leagues throughout his career and made his professional debut in the Swedish Hockey League last season. Karlsson also played for Team Sweden in the Under-18 World Junior Championships last season, having a decent showing with three points in six games. He's actually played for Team Sweden on numerous occasions (46 GP of International junior competition) and could possibly be named to their World Junior team for the IIHF Under 20 tournament this winter.

Carolina fans haven't gotten to see too much of Karlsson because he has played overseas for his entire career, but I would expect that to change over the next couple of years. Many of them got a glimpse of what he brings to the table at the team's prospect development camp two weeks ago. He got a chance to show off his strong defensive instincts and play-making skills in the mini-scrimmage, as he looked strong on the back-check and showed great patience with the puck. He was also one of the team's more active players along the boards and played a strong game in all three zones. That was just a mini-scrimmage and not something to base all of your opinions on, but it did give us of Karlsson's game and what we can expect from him.

Karlsson's got a lot of great tools and his raw skillset is impressive but right now, he is mostly just potential and the Hurricanes won't know what they have in him until a few more years. He has spent most of his career in the Swedish junior leagues and while he has played well, he hasn't been a dominant player there. He isn't very big either (weighed only 170 lbs.) and may need to get stronger to be an effective two-way player, but he's also only 19 years old and hasn't gotten much of a chance to play against bigger players yet. 

This is why the next few years are going to be very important for him, as Karlsson's getting close to the points where he needs to take the step from juniors to the professional rankings, whether that be in Sweden or in North America. He played one game for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League last season and is under contract to play there next season, so his performance there will tell us a little more about where is development is. When he will start to contribute for the Hurricanes is also another question, but I think that's going to be a few years away regardless. He is only 19 years old and has yet to play a season in professional hockey, so the team will probably wait to see how he does there before offering him an entry level contract.

After the jump, we'll look at Karlsson's career numbers to get an idea of how his first season in the pros could go.

Erik Karlsson
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G
2008-09 14 Frolunda U16 U16 Sm 3 1 1 2 0.666667
2009-10 15 Goteborg 1 TV-Pucken 8 3 3 6 0.75
2009-10 15 Frolunda U16 U16 SM 8 8 7 15 1.875
2009-10 15 Frolunda J18 J18 Elit 4 1 3 4 1
2009-10 15 Frolunda J18 J18 Allsvenskan 9 1 0 1 0.111111
2010-11 16 Frolunda J18 J18 Elit 10 10 5 15 1.5
2010-11 16 Frolunda J18 J18 Allsvenskan 16 10 17 27 1.6875
2010-11 16 Frolunda J20 SuperElit 29 4 9 13 0.448276
2011-12 17 Frolunda J18 J18 Elit 1 0 1 1 1
2011-12 17 Frolunda J18 J18 Allsvenskan 3 3 6 9 3
2011-12 17 Frolunda J20 SuperElit 47 14 19 33 0.702128
2012-13 18 Frolunda J20 SuperElit 40 10 25 35 0.875
2012-13 18 Frolunda SHL 5 0 0 0 0
2012-13 18 Karlskrona Allsvenskan 2 0 1 1 0.5

Career Stats

League GP G A Pts Pts/G
U16 Sm 11 9 8 17 1.545
J18 Elit 15 11 9 20 1.333
J18 Allsvenskan 28 14 23 37 1.321
SuperElite 116 28 53 81 0.698
SHL 5 0 0 0 0.000
Allsvenskan 2 0 1 1 0.500

As an offensive player, Karlsson player cruised when he was playing the lower levels, but struggled a little once he started playing in Sweden's Under-20 league, SuperElit. His numbers there are still strong, but not nearly at the levels they were at the lower leagues. Scouting reports were high on Karlsson's game but none of them really mention him being a top-scorer or a high-end offensive player. Having to adjust to play against bigger players may have had an effect on that and his counting stats. He still scored at a pretty solid rate and didn't look too out of place in a tougher league. We'll see how he plays next year for Frolunda's professional club, though because that's going to be a tougher test. Most 19 year olds don't light up at that level unless they're elite, so it will be interesting to see how he does.

Comparable Players

The criteria here is forwards drafted out of a Swedish junior league who scored at a point-per-game rate of .66-.73 while playing in the SuperElit league, which is where Karlsson spent the most time in. Only three of his nine comparables spent time in the NHL and one of them had a long career (Andreas Johansson). The other two have played a combined 50 games but they're both still pretty young and could get a shot somewhere down the line. Still, Karlsson appears to be in a lower tier compared to other Swedish junior prospects and could stay under the radar unless he really impresses in the Swedish Elite League.

Right now, Karlsson looks like your standard mid-round pick. He's a player with good upside,a solid skillset and could have a decent NHL future. However, he is still mostly just potential and not much more than that, which is the same thing that can be said about a lot of different prospects. Karlsson isn't even 20 years old yet, so it will be awhile before the Hurricanes need him, but I still think these next couple of years are going to be pretty important for finding out how good of a player he can be. If he can handle the pros and keep his head above water, then Karlsson might be ready to contribute sooner than the Hurricanes think. Should that be the case, then they've got a very good prospect on their hands.

This has yet to be determined, though because, as I said earlier, most of him is just potential.