Nineteen games into his career on the West Coast and Erik Karlsson is still looking for his first goal as a member of the San Jose Sharks. Karlsson has 8 points, just 3 at even-strength and is a minus 9. Hardly the numbers you would expect from a two-time Norris Trophy winner who is supposed to be a key member of what many consider the best defense corps in the NHL. Wednesday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer came to Karlsson’s defense, insisting that results on the scoresheet are right around the corner.
“His game is trending in the right direction. When you look at the underlying numbers of what he’s doing here they’re as good or better than they were two years ago in Ottawa,” DeBoer said. So, is he right?
To find out, we’ll look at his game in two sections. One, how is Karlsson doing from a puck possession / puck moving standpoint and two, how is he doing in terms of contributing in the offensive zone compared to the season DeBoer referenced where Karlsson was one of the best players in the league.
*All ranks below are among defensemen
POSSESSION / PUCK MOVING
As you can see in the above graphic, Karlsson is putting up monster puck possession numbers again this season, averaging 2:30 of puck on stick possession per game. As for transporting the puck, Karlsson is getting it out of the defensive end and into the attacking end at an even higher rate than he did in 2016-17. When he doesn’t have the puck, his elite skating ability and awareness enables him to get it at a high rate, ranking top-5 just like he did a couple of years ago when he averaged nearly a point per game.
The similarities between the two seasons are even more evident when you compare Karlsson’s impact in the offensive zone.
OFFENSIVE ZONE CONTRIBUTION
Karlsson has had the puck on his stick for almost the exact same amount of time in the attacking end, he’s getting just as many pucks on net in total and from the high-danger slot area and he’s actually getting more pucks to his teammates in the slot than he did when he was the 3rd highest scoring defenseman in the league. And yet, 0 goals and 8 assists in 19 games. As DeBoer said, the underlying numbers are as good or better.
So, if you’re looking for any criticism of Karlsson’s game, you’re not going to find it here. He’s doing everything he’s always done at the world class rate he’s always done it at. Karlsson is too good a player to be held to under half a point per game while putting up process related numbers like these. So don’t worry Sharks fans, the coach knows what he’s talking about and when the dam bursts for EK65, the points are going to come fast and furious.