Erik Karlsson Playing Like a Man Among Boys for the Sharks

San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson #65 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson #65 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

If the San Jose Sharks had known that new jerseys would yield the old Erik Karlsson, they would’ve switched years ago.

The 32-year-old defenseman was a two-time Norris Trophy winner with the Ottawa Senators before being traded to the Sharks in 2018, but his time in San Jose has been turbulent.

Injuries have held him to no more than 56 games in each of his four seasons with the Sharks, and as a result, his play has not been as explosive. He’s been good at times, without a doubt, but the elite Karlsson that fans saw in Ottawa has been missing since his arrival on the west coast.

Erik Karlsson looks like his old self this season.

So far, though, the 2022-2023 season has featured a resurgence unlike anything the NHL has seen in recent memory. Entering Saturday’s action, the Sharks had played 13 games, and Karlsson has been on the ice in every game, leading the team in average time on ice in the process.

That alone would make this a good start to the season for him, but his offensive production is what’s catching everyone’s attention. The San Jose alternate captain comes into Saturday’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks with 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 13 games.

First of all, that total ranks fourth among NHL skaters, which is mind-boggling for any defenseman, let alone one that has not played well recently and is on one of the league’s worst teams.

I mean, Karlsson has only one 10-goal season since scoring 17 in 2016-2017, and that season came last year when he tallied 10 goals in 50 games. To make his goal total even more impressive, consider that no defenseman has scored this often this early since 1937.

Among Sharks players, Karlsson has twice as many goals as the team’s second-highest scorer, more assists than any other player, and ten more points than the guys in second for San Jose.

I don’t think anyone knows where this level of play has come from for the Sharks blueliner, but it’s easily the most impressive thing we’ve seen so far this season. The only bad news is that his team is 3-8-2 in spite of his dominance.

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Can Karlsson sustain this level of play? Probably not, as that would be a tall task for any player. For now though, just sit back and enjoy the show.