San Jose Sharks defenceman Erik Karlsson looks this season like a man with something to prove.
Since Ottawa traded him to San Jose in a 2018 blockbuster, Karlsson definitely hasn’t been the same player. After four seasons in San Jose, he hasn’t once cracked the 45 point plateau. But he also hasn’t had a single season there where he played more than 56 games.
This season, the old Karlsson has suddenly resurfaced, not looking remotely old or injury plagued.
🧢First career hat trick.✅
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) November 2, 2022
Tuesday night, Karlsson became the first defenseman in Sharks history to score a hat trick (Brent Burns had one in 2013, but was a right winger at the time). That gives Karlsson 15 points in 12 games, which leads all NHL defencemen and has him tied for 6th overall in league scoring. His 9 goals rank second in the league behind some guy named Connor McDavid. In fact, no defenceman in modern day NHL history has scored more goals in his club’s first 12 games than Karlsson.
And it’s not just a case of pucks suddenly bouncing in Karlsson’s favour. His fast, fluid, powerful skating stride appears to have returned, as the Leafs found out last Friday.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) October 28, 2022
Because Ottawa got so much for Karlsson, Senator fans generally applaud the trade as a huge win. That hasn’t remotely changed, of course, but the early part of this season has at least tipped the scales back a little toward the Sharks’ side of things.
Josh Norris and Tim Stützle were the Sens’ crown jewels in the deal and both signed massive extensions this summer. While Karlsson is rolling, Stutzle is off to just an average start with 1 goal in 9 games and Norris will be out at least 3 months with a third injury to the same shoulder.
Karlsson is in a confident head space right now. With Brent Burns now a Carolina Hurricane, the Shark blue line now belongs for the first time to Karlsson, the undisputed number one.
There’s still a long way to go, of course. A very long way. Karlsson came out fast last year with six points in his first five games, before the nuisance of injuries unraveled things. It’s definitely hard to trust his body at this point but it’s super easy to cheer for his return to form, however long it lasts.
By Steve Warne