Examining Linus Karlsson’s successful adjustment to pro hockey in North America: CanucksArmy prospect rankings #7
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By Faber1 month ago
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He made the jump from the Allsvenskan to the SHL without skipping a beat and is doing the same when it comes to the jump from the SHL to the AHL.
Linus Karlsson comes in at number seven on our list of the Vancouver Canucks’ top ten prospects.
We once viewed him as a shooter who may find the physicality of the AHL difficult to contend with, but instead, he is using his size and strength to his advantage and putting up strong offensive numbers during his rookie season in the AHL.
Linus Karlsson is a 6’2″, 180-pound right winger who has 14 goals and 18 assists through 43 games in his first AHL season. And yes, he is a right winger, not a centre — don’t be fooled by the EliteProspects page.
Karlsson is 23 years old and now that he has made a strong first impact with the Canucks’ organization, his NHL debut is just a matter of time. He should get into some NHL games later in the season but for now, he is one of the three Abbotsford Canucks who has played in all 43 games this season. Karlsson has not missed a game due to injury or a healthy scratch since he arrived in North America.
After being a power play specialist in the SHL, we knew he would likely be able to score in the AHL but have been pleasantly surprised with the bite that he has in his game. He uses all of his 6’2″ frame and plays pretty tough in the corners.
Karlsson was a third-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2018 and was traded to the Canucks organization in exchange for Jonathan Dahlen on February 25th, 2019. Karlsson is in the first year of a two-year entry-level contract with the Canucks and will become a restricted free agent after the 2023-24 season.
We’ve seen Karlsson’s skill on full display this season in the AHL. He is a talented shooter and a solid playmaker at the AHL level. His style of play fits extremely well with what you want to see from a skilled top-six winger in the AHL. He makes some magical plays in the offensive zone but we have been impressed with his ability to think on the ice and anticipate where the puck is going to be.
Karlsson has great spatial awareness in a few different areas of the ice. He recognizes when he has room on the wing and can put his shoulder down and beat a defender to the net. In that scenario, he typically goes for a forehand show on a rush from the right side.
His skill in knowing how scoring chances develop shows on the power play, where he is often the first player to get his stick on a rebound and has a good enough shot to not make many mistakes when the goalie is scrambling.
Confidence is growing in Karlsson’s game as the season goes on. We saw a ton of chemistry when the Swedish House Mafia line of Nils Höglander, Nils Aman and Karlsson came together to bring some excitement to the AHL.
Defensively, we actually have much less of a worry at this point in the season than we did before he played his first AHL game. Karlsson is long and strong in his own zone, and he’s also down to get the friction on if the use of a body check is required. Karlsson doesn’t go out of his way to make big hits, but he has some raw strength in him that comes out at times and you almost need to have a double-take on which player that was.
We do think that Karlsson is going to struggle defensively when he makes the jump to the NHL but if he relies on his instincts while finding himself in a structured defence, he should be able to get by as an average or below-average defender. He won’t be caught chasing so much and seems to contribute down low in his own end instead of pressing defencemen at the point and looking to cheat for a breakaway.
Another interesting tidbit in Karlsson’s game is that he kills penalties!
We saw him do it a bit in the SHL but he has consistently been one of the first four forwards out to kill penalties since early November when he jumped onto the penalty kill. He uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and has a strong clearance when possession is attained. He’s not dominant on the penalty kill but it is a good piece to have in your toolbelt as you move toward being able to stick in the NHL. Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Rick Tocchet has talked about bottom-six guys needing to bring something else to the team aside from playing at five-on-five. Killing penalties while also being strong on the power play gives Karlsson a pair of arrows in his quiver.
The biggest worry we have about Karlsson is his footspeed. He seems to do an ok job once he is in full stride but those first few steps don’t seem to generate as much power as you’d hope for from a player with the height and strength that he possesses. Karlsson is able to have success in the AHL because it is much slower than the NHL. The NHL is going to take away that half-second that Karlsson has been taking advantage of and he will need to make a big adjustment to have success when being defended by an NHL-calibre player.
The good news is that he doesn’t rely on speed in the AHL, it’s still much more about how he thinks the game and the combination of his shot and his mind seem like the combination that is his meal ticket to have success in the NHL. We still need to see him improve in all facets of his game but he’s a player we can see being a guy who gets into a decent amount of NHL games next season.
CA PROSPECT RANKINGS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
We’ve kind of hinted at it throughout this article but our guess is that Karlsson gets into a few NHL games this season. He is currently third in points for the Abbotsford Canucks and has consistently been a reliable option for Abbotsford Head Coach Jeremy Colliton.
We like that Karlsson has been able to achieve immediate success at the AHL level and hope to see him in the NHL in the very near future. Until then, we will watch him be one of the most dangerous players in Abbotsford and a fan favourite with his infectious smile.
Canucks GM Patrik Allvin mentioned Karlsson as one of the guys he’s been impressed with in Abbotsford back in January when Allvin spoke to the media.
“I hope we can see some of them getting a chance up here as we move along,” said Allvin when he spoke about Karlsson, Arshdeep Bains and Danila Klimovich.
In conclusion, this kid is going to play NHL games but at the age of 23, he is fast approaching the graduation of being a prospect. It’s been a great start to his pro career in North America and if he is used in the right way once he gets his NHL chance, he could be a guy who sticks.
This concludes our seventh-ranked prospect report. We will be back tomorrow with number six on the rankings!
- Linus Karlsson
- Filip Johansson
- Jacob Truscott
- Arshdeep Bains
Honourable Mentions: Aku Koskenvuo, Joni Jurmo, Connor Lockhart, and Kirill Kudryavtsev.
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