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Wow can you believe it?
After all these years, you’re starting to see the big names in hockey media look at each other and say to themselves, “Maybe this Erik Karlsson guy is one of the three or five best players in the world.” And sure, this is an argument you could have first advanced several years ago, but you’d have been laughed out of the room.
All it took was a 130-foot pass that went 15 feet in the air and still landed perfectly on a guy’s tape, in addition to a bunch of points and huge minutes and a gigantic possession advantage against Beloved Canadian Prince Patrice Bergeron for everyone to acknowledge that yeah, this guy who’s certainly been the best defenseman in the league for probably four or five of his eight career seasons might actually be completely world-class, instead of the qualified-world-class we liked to put on him for no good reason in particular.
But yeah, turns out this kind has been this beautifully, electrifyingly good boy pretty much all along. And because he is so nice and so good I have seven stats about how he is the perfect hockey player and if you don’t think so you should be fired into the sun.
And to the guys who took eight years of convincing, welcome to 2013. You’re not gonna believe how Breaking Bad ends.
7. I don’t know if you heard this but Erik Karlsson scores a lot for a modern defenseman
Erik Karlsson came into the league in 2009-10 and was relatively quiet his first two seasons, netting a combined 71 points in 135 games.
That’s pretty good for a defenseman at any age, let alone one playing his age-19 and age-20 seasons. That number put him 30th among defensemen over those two seasons. That’s “No. 1 defenseman” territory (given that there are only 30 NHL teams, you see) for a kid that young. Pretty good.
It was the next year he went off. Remember those 71 points in 2009-10 and 2010-11 combined? Yeah, he scored 78 in 81 the next season. No problem. And the production continued from there as you well know. In the 421 regular-season games he’s played since then start of 2011-12 — and remember he suffered a debilitating injury that limited him to 17 games in the lockout season — he has 385 points.
Three hundred eighty-five points in four hundred twenty-one games. That’s 0.91 points per game. From the blue line. On a team that, during this period, wasn’t exactly the most talented in the league.
That puts him, obviously, first in the league in D scoring over the past six seasons. The next-closest guy is Dustin Byfuglien, and has 98 fewer points than Karlsson does. That’s only a little bigger than the gap between second-place Byfuglien and 30th-place Tyson Barrie.
6. And he also scores a lot for a defenseman in any era
What you have to understand is that Karlsson is doing this in what is undoubtedly the period in which it’s most difficult to score, ever. It’s never been harder to put up points in this league, and Karlsson is doing it for fun every single night.
In fact, only 14 defensemen in the entire history of the National Hockey League have put up at least 450 points in their first eight seasons. Karlsson is 13th on that list in total points. He’s 11th in points per game.
Literally everyone in front of him on the points-per-game list is a Hall of Famer, except Gary Suter. (Which, hey, looks like Gary Suter should probably be a Hall of Famer.) But other than that? Orr, Coffey, Potvin, Bourque, Leetch, Housley, Howe, Salming, Murphy. Rarified air.
Not even Nick Lidstrom matched that accomplishment. Like, that’s crazy. He played on an All-Star team in one of the highest-scoring eras in league history. He only had 423 points, in 612 games. Karlsson’s ahead in points, by 33, but behind in games played by 56. Incredible!
5. But here’s the thing: He also scores a lot for a forward
If we’re just looking at the seasons after he started scoring like the whole league was a big joke to him in 2011-12, Karlsson is one of the most impressive scorers in the league, regardless of position.
In points per game among players with at least 350 points? He’s 12th, ahead of Phil Kessel, Joe Thornton, Toews, Joe Pavelski, Blake Wheeler, Kopitar, Pacioretty, Sedin, and Voracek.
But even if you include those first two years when he was less of an offensive threat, Karlsson is a monster in this league. Only 24 guys have at least 450 points over that period. Karlsson is only ahead of Voracek in total points, but also Eric Staal, Patrick Marleau, Blake Wheeler, and Voracek again in points per game.
Again, he’s a defenseman. Just to clarify.
4. He once broke the Finnish league
In 2012-13, while the owners greedily locked the players out of NHL competition, it wasn’t hard for Karlsson to find a job elsewhere.
He landed with Jokerit in the Finnish SM-liiga. There, he played just 30 games in a defense-heavy league. And still finished tied for 26th among all skaters in points, with 34. In points per game? He was fourth at 1.13.
In points among defensemen? He finished first. The next-closest guy played literally twice as many games and still finished three points back. Only Kris Russell, who played just 15 games for TPS, came close to breaking his point-plus-per-game (0.91, 2-12-14 in 15 games).
In his last game for Jokerit in particular, Karlsson went way the hell off, netting 1-4-5 and putting SEVENTEEN SHOTS ON GOAL. Folks, come on with this.
And in his first game, he scored a goal and put nine shots on net.
Now, 17 shots, nine shots. That’s obviously a lot. Obviously. But how about this: In those 30 games, he put 248 on goal. That’s more than eight a night. On goal. From the blue line. Someone send me the tapes of these games, folks!
Oh wait, here’s highlights from that 17-shot game. My man went overboard.
3. And speaking of shooting the puck…
Karlsson shoots the puck a lot in the NHL too, of course.
He’s 30th in the league in total shots on goal since he came into it, and his shots per game is 29th. Only three other defensemen have cleared 1,600 SOG: Byfuglien, Brent Burns, and Shea Weber.
But here’s the thing: Karlsson shoots a lot more than that; he just has a little trouble getting it on net. His nearly 3,750 shot attempts in all situations since 2009-10 rank him fourth in the entire NHL behind Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel, and Burns. That’s it.
2. Everything runs through Karlsson
I mentioned before how the Senators haven’t been very good for most of Karlsson’s career. So how’s this for a stat: Karlsson has more primary points in all situations — that is, he either scored or set up a goal directly — than any defenseman in the league since 2009. Not really a surprise.
Of all his points, 296 are primaries. That’s the most primary points in the league by a defenseman, and by a decent margin (Burns is second with 262, playing on a much better team, and also getting some times as a forward). It’s also 50th in the league among all players, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because it’s hard to get primaries from the blue line.
But here’s the crazy part: Over Karlsson’s career, the Senators are 17th in the league in total goals scored, at 1,662. That means Karlsson either scored or got the first assist on almost 18 percent of every goal the Senators scored for eight seasons, and he missed a big chunk of one of them. This is an untouchable number for any defenseman.
And those 3,747 shot attempts since 2009 I mentioned above? It’s more than 10 percent of all attempts by anyone on the Senators.
1. Erik Karlsson should have a closet full of Norris trophies
Oh but remember, Erik Karlsson is only good now because he’s making moonshot home run passes and running the Bruins out of the building. Right up until this series, he never played defense in his life.
Except this no-defense defenseman has been credited with 419 takeaways since he came into the league, and that’s the 10th-most from any player at any position. And he has personally blocked 757 shots during that time, which puts him 50th among all defensemen.
Of course, he has the puck a lot more than his opponents do, so it’s hard to really rack up, say, Dan Girardi’s or Kris Russell’s blocked-shots numbers.
And the puck is on his stick a lot more, which is why he’s second in the league in giveaways over the last eight seasons. Who’s ahead of him in that category? Only Joe Thornton.
Who’s immediately behind him? Real Defensemen Who Take Care Of Things In Their Own End Too, Brent Burns and Drew Doughty.
Now, if you’re asking me here, it’s almost like all the complaints about his lack of defense have always been a huge load of [expletive].
Almost like that.
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