Erik Karlsson

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Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson 3 2017-05-13.jpg
Karlsson with the Ottawa Senators during the 2017 playoffs
Born (1990-05-31) 31 May 1990 (age 28)
Landsbro, Sweden
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 191 lb (87 kg; 13 st 9 lb)
Position Defense
Shoots Right
NHL team
Former teams
San Jose Sharks
Frölunda HC
Ottawa Senators
National team  Sweden
NHL Draft 15th overall, 2008
Ottawa Senators
Playing career 2008–present

Erik Sven Gunnar Karlsson (pronounced [²eːrɪk ˈkɑːɭsɔn]; born 31 May 1990) is a Swedish professional ice hockey defenseman for the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League. Karlsson was drafted in the first round, 15th overall, by the Ottawa Senators at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Karlsson is a two-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman, winning the award in 2012 and 2015.

Playing career[edit]

Karlsson made his Elitserien debut for Frölunda HC on 1 March 2008, recording 8:48 of ice time during a sold out home game in Scandinavium against league leaders HV71. Karlsson scored the game-winning goal, assisted by Tomi Kallio and Magnus Kahnberg, with a slap shot in overtime during a man advantage. The win secured a playoff berth for Frölunda with three games remaining in the regular season.

Karlsson made his Elitserien debut in 2008 with Frölunda HC.

Karlsson finished the season with Frölunda's J20 team playing in the J20 SuperElit playoffs, where Frölunda took home the Anton Cup when they won, two games to one, against Brynäs IF in the Swedish Junior Ice Hockey Championship final.

Ottawa Senators[edit]

Prior to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Karlsson was ranked fourth among European skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting Service.[1] He was drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators in front of their hometown fans at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario. The selection was made by Ottawa's captain Daniel Alfredsson, a native of Gothenburg, who played for Frölunda before entering the NHL. Then Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray traded Ottawa's first-round pick, 18th overall, and their third-round pick in 2009 to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the Predators' first-round pick, 15th overall, to ensure no other team would select Karlsson before them.

A few weeks before the 2008–09 Elitserien season premiere, Frölunda announced Karlsson was brought up to the senior team as a regular-roster player.[2]

In September 2009, Karlsson attended the Senators' training camp with a chance at joining the squad even at junior age. On 29 September 2009, the Senators announced Karlsson had made the team's roster and would start the 2009–10 season in Ottawa.[3] After struggling in nine regular season games with Ottawa, Karlsson was assigned to the team's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. On 27 November 2009, exactly one month after being sent down, Karlsson was recalled from Binghamton. He would score his first NHL goal against the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Bäckström in a 4–1 win for Ottawa on 19 December 2009, and remain in the NHL for the remainder of the season and play in all of Ottawa's Stanley Cup playoff games.

Karlsson was selected to participate in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, set for 30 January 2011, at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina,[4] having recorded 25 points in 41 games.

The 2011–12 season saw Karlsson continue his development. On 16 December 2011, with his third assist of the night, Karlsson registered his 100th regular-season NHL point (in 168 games) in a game against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.[5] Karlsson was the NHL's leading vote-getter in All-Star voting,[6] receiving 939,951 fan votes and becoming one of four Senators players selected to partake in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. Karlsson finished the season as the leading scorer among NHL defensemen, leading second-place Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Campbell by 25 points. Karlsson was being mentioned as a James Norris Memorial Trophy candidate, if not the favorite for the award.[7][8]

On 19 June 2012, Karlsson signed a reported seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the Senators.[9] The following day, Karlsson was announced as the winner of the James Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman, beating Zdeno Chára of the Boston Bruins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. He became the second Swede after seven-time winner Nicklas Lidström to win the award, joining the ranks of Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin as the only players to win the award under age 23.[10]

Karlsson playing in his tenth game back following surgery to repair a lacerated Achilles tendon. He logged nearly 40 minutes in a 2–1 double overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of their 2013 Stanley Cup second round series.

During the 2012–13 NHL lockout, Karlsson signed with Jokerit of the Finnish SM-liiga. He received a one-game suspension for allegedly throwing his stick at a referee following a game on 8 December 2012.[11] He finished his stint in Jokerit with 9 goals and 25 assists (34 points) in 30 games, leading all defensemen in scoring. Once the lockout ended and the NHL season commenced, Karlsson promptly recorded a goal and two assists as Ottawa defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4–1 in their season opener.[12] On 13 February 2013, Karlsson's Achilles tendon was lacerated when Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke had his skate land on the back of Karlsson's left leg,[13] requiring surgery and taking him out of Ottawa's lineup indefinitely.[14] Cooke had been suspended several times previously for much-criticized incidents resulting in injury to opposing players, but was not suspended for this incident.[15][16][17] At the time of the injury, Karlsson led all NHL defensemen with six goals. Though initial estimates had him out of the lineup for four-to-six months, Karlsson returned to the Ottawa lineup against the Washington Capitals on 25 April 2013, ten weeks to the day after the injury occurred.[18] The Senators made the 2013 playoffs but were eliminated by Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Semi-final, with Karlsson registering one goal and seven assists in ten games.[19]

Karlsson appeared in all 82 games during the 2013–14 season and finished the season with 20 goals and 74 points, resulting in Karlsson being the first defenseman since Brian Leetch in the 2000–01 season to have at least 20 goals and 50 assists in the same season.[20] However, the Senators would fail to qualify for the 2014 playoffs.

Captain of the Senators[edit]

On 2 October 2014, the Senators organization announced Karlsson would serve as the ninth captain in the team's modern history, replacing the recently traded Jason Spezza.[21] In his first season as team captain, Karlsson led all NHL defensemen in points for the third time in four seasons, including a career-high 21 goals. He also played in all 82 of Ottawa's games for the second season in a row and ranked third in the NHL in total ice time (2,234:55) and average ice time (27:15) to carry the Senators to a 23–4–4 record on the way to an unlikely playoff spot.[22] On 24 June 2015, it was announced Karlsson won his second Norris Trophy, beating out fellow nominees Drew Doughty and P. K. Subban.[23]

Karlsson was named captain of the Ottawa Senators in October 2014.

Karlsson appeared in all 82 games for the third-straight season during the 2015–16 season and led the league in assists with a career high 66 assists and set a career high in points (82), finishing fourth in the league in scoring alongside San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton.[24] With his 81st point, Karlsson broke the record for most points in a single season by a Swedish defenseman, which was previously set by Nicklas Lidström during the 2005–06 season.[25] Karlsson was also the first defenseman since Paul Coffey in the 1985–86 season to finish in the top five in scoring and the first since Bobby Orr in the 1974–75 season to lead the league in assists.[26] Karlsson's performance earned him his third Norris Trophy nomination, though Drew Doughty won the trophy with Karlsson finishing in second place in vote totals.[27]

During the 2016–17 season, Karlsson set a team record on 4 March 2017 when he appeared in his 312th consecutive game, breaking the previous set by fellow defenseman Chris Phillips.[28] However, he would miss his first game in almost four years in late March 2017 after sustaining an injury from blocking a shot during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, ending his consecutive game streak at 324 games.[29] Karlsson finished the regular season in third place among defensemen in points and second place among defensemen in assists and blocked shots, earning him his fourth Norris Trophy nomination.[30] Karlsson would finish second in voting, with the award going to Brent Burns.[31] Karlsson's performance continued into the post-season, helping the Senators reach the Eastern Conference Final, the first time the team had done so since the 2007 playoffs. Although the Senators would be eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games, Karlsson was praised for his performance during the Senators' post-season run and how he continued playing despite suffering two hairline fractures in his left heel.[32] Karlsson would also set a post-season team record for most assists and points for a defenseman in the playoffs.[33]

Shortly after the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs, Karlsson had surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot, resulting in him missing the beginning of the 2017–18 regular season.[34] Karlsson's productivity dwindled in this season, finishing the season with 62 points in 71 games, partly due to coping with injuries and the loss of his child towards the end of the season.[35] Despite his lower-than-average performance, Karlsson moved into third place on the franchise's all-time points list (with 492 points) on 8 February 2018 after a 4–3 win over the Nashville Predators.[36] The Senators also struggled during the season, finishing the season in 30th place in the league.[37] In the midst of a rebuild, the Senators attempted to trade Karlsson before the trade deadline as his 7-year, $45.5 million contract ends in 2019 and the organization was uncertain about re-signing him, though a deal could not be reached before the deadline.[38][35] However, the day after the deadline, Karlsson expressed his interest in staying in Ottawa and said he never requested a trade.[39]

San Jose Sharks[edit]

On 13 September 2018, Karlsson along with Francis Perron, was traded to the San Jose Sharks. In return the Senators received Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rūdolfs Balcers, the Sharks' first-round pick in 2020, second-round pick in 2019 and a conditional second-round pick in 2021.[40]

Style of play[edit]

Karlsson's performance has been widely acclaimed by current and former ice hockey players, head coaches and the media. He is well known for his speed, such as his ability to lead a rush and be the first man to return to defend, and for making plays.[41][42][43] In 2012, Bobby Orr praised Karlsson for his fast skating and performance, comparing him to former defensemen such as Larry Robinson and Paul Coffey, while Coffey himself praised Karlsson as an "elite player" and one of the best players in the NHL.[44][45] Ken Hitchcock praised Karlsson for his skating skill and reading of plays, saying that he is "ahead of the curve everywhere".[46][47] Henrik Lundqvist also called Karlsson "one of the best players in the game", complimenting his skating skills and vision of the game.[48] Despite his performance, he has also been criticized for not playing a more defensive role as a defenseman.[49][50]

Karlsson is known as being a more offensive defenseman. He has earned more than 70 points in four different seasons and is the second defenseman in league history to lead his team in scoring in four consecutive campaigns.[30]

International play[edit]

Medal record
Men's ice hockey
Representing  Sweden
Winter Olympics
Silver medal – second place 2014 Sochi
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 2010 Cologne
World Junior Championships
Silver medal – second place 2009 Ottawa

Karlsson was selected as the tournament's best defenseman at the 2008 IIHF World U18 Championships.[51] He was the tournament's plus/minus leader with a plus eight rating.[52] He led team Sweden in assists, finishing third overall in the tournament with seven in six games,[53] which also tied him for first place in defensemen scoring.[54] During the 2008 U20 4-Nations tournament which Sweden won, Karlsson scored one goal and one assist which tied him with David Rundblad, Viktor Ekbom and Tim Erixon as Sweden's defenseman scoring leader.[55] At the 2009 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, Karlsson was selected to the all-star team,[56] and as the tournament's best defenseman.[57] With two goals and seven assists in six games, he led all Swedish players in points,[58] and was tied for the tournament lead among defensemen.[59]

Karlsson played at the 2010 World Championships and was the highest scoring defenseman for Sweden[60] with one goal and three assists in nine games.

Karlsson tied for fourth in team scoring with Senators teammate Daniel Alfredsson at the 2012 World Championship with seven points and led all Swedish defensemen in that category.[61] He also finished tied for fifth in points and tied third in goals by defensemen overall in the tournament.[62]

At the 2014 Olympic Tournament held in Sochi, Karlsson led all players with eight points and was tied for second in goals. On 21 February 2014, Karlsson's scored a powerplay goal in the semi-final against Finland to earn Sweden a spot in the gold medal final against Canada. The Swedes would later lose 3–0. Along with a silver medal, Karlsson was named the Best Defenseman of the tournament and was selected to the All-Star team.[63]

Karlsson declined an invitation to play for Sweden at the 2015 World Championship due to an undisclosed injury.[64]

On 1 March 2016, Karlsson was announced to represent Sweden at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.[65] In September, he was named alternate captain alongside Daniel Sedin.[66]

Personal life[edit]

Karlsson and his first wife, Therese, were divorced in 2013.[67] He married his second wife, Melinda Currey, in Ottawa in August 2017.[68] On 22 November 2017, Karlsson and Currey announced via Instagram that they were expecting their first child,[69] and on 18 December, they revealed it was a boy.[70] On 20 March 2018, the Karlssons announced that their son was stillborn.[71][72] On 12 June 2018, Karlsson's wife filed a protection order against Monika Caryk, girlfriend of teammate Mike Hoffman, for harassment both before and after the passing of their son. The nature of the alleged harassment included using fake accounts to direct over 1,000 malicious comments towards the Karlssons, including some made regarding the stillbirth of the Karlssons' son. The harassment allegations against Caryk remain to be proven in a court of law.[73] Later that year, Karlsson and his wife started a charity called "Can't Dim My Light" which raise funds and awareness about bullying in schools.[74]

Karlsson's childhood idols included Nicklas Lidström, Daniel Alfredsson, Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg.[75] He is a supporter of English Premier League football club Arsenal.[76]

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2006–07 Södertälje SK J20 10 2 8 10 8
2007–08 Frölunda HC J20 38 13 24 37 68 5 1 0 1 4
2007–08 Frölunda HC SHL 7 1 0 1 0 6 0 0 0 0
2008–09 Frölunda HC J20 1 0 2 2 2
2008–09 Borås HC Allsv 7 0 1 1 14
2008–09 Frölunda HC SHL 45 5 5 10 10 11 1 2 3 24
2009–10 Binghamton Senators AHL 12 0 11 11 22
2009–10 Ottawa Senators NHL 60 5 21 26 24 6 1 5 6 4
2010–11 Ottawa Senators NHL 75 13 32 45 50
2011–12 Ottawa Senators NHL 81 19 59 78 42 7 1 0 1 4
2012–13 Jokerit SM-l 30 9 25 34 24
2012–13 Ottawa Senators NHL 17 6 8 14 8 10 1 7 8 6
2013–14 Ottawa Senators NHL 82 20 54 74 36
2014–15 Ottawa Senators NHL 82 21 45 66 42 6 1 3 4 2
2015–16 Ottawa Senators NHL 82 16 66 82 50
2016–17 Ottawa Senators NHL 77 17 54 71 28 19 2 16 18 10
2017–18 Ottawa Senators NHL 71 9 53 62 36
NHL totals 627 126 392 518 316 48 6 31 37 26


Year Team Event Result GP G A Pts PIM
2008 Sweden Jr. WJC18 4th 6 0 7 7 4
2009 Sweden Jr. WJC 2nd, silver medalist(s) 6 2 7 9 0
2010 Sweden WC 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 9 1 3 4 2
2012 Sweden WC 6th 8 3 4 7 2
2014 Sweden Oly 2nd, silver medalist(s) 6 4 4 8 0
Junior totals 35 6 22 28 4
Senior totals 24 8 11 19 4



Award Year(s) awarded
WJC U18 Best Defenseman 2008[51]
WJC All-Star Team 2009[56]
WJC Best Defenseman 2009[57]
Olympic All-Star Team 2014[63]
Olympic Best Defenseman 2014[63]


Award Year(s) awarded
NHL All-Star Game 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018
James Norris Memorial Trophy 2012, 2015
NHL First All-Star Team 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017
Viking Award 2012, 2016, 2017

Records and achievements[edit]


  • Drafted 15th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators.
  • Played his first NHL regular season game on 3 October 2009, against the New York Rangers, and also recorded his first NHL point, an assist.
  • Scored his first NHL goal on 19 December 2009, against Niklas Bäckström of the Minnesota Wild.
  • Silver medal at 2014 Sochi Olympics.
  • Led all defensemen at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in points, tied for first among the tournament with Phil Kessel.
  • Named the IIHF Best Defenseman at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


  • In 2011–12, Karlsson set a new Senators' franchise record for points in a season by a defenseman (previously held by Norm Maciver) with 78. In 2013–14, he passed Steve Duchesne for the Senators franchise record for most goals in a season by a defenseman with 20. In 2015–16, he once again set a new Senators record for points by a defenseman in a single season with 82, surpassing his previous record at 78.
  • In 2015–16, Karlsson set a new Swedish record for most points in a single season by a Swedish defenseman with 82, previously held by Nicklas Lidström
  • In the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, Karlsson set a Senators franchise record for most assists and points for a defenseman in the post-season (16 assists, 18 points), breaking the previous record set by Wade Redden in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs (8 assists, 10 points).[33]


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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Daniel Sedin
Winner of the Viking Award
Succeeded by
Henrik Zetterberg
Preceded by
Nicklas Lidström
Duncan Keith
James Norris Memorial Trophy winner
Succeeded by
P.K. Subban
Drew Doughty
Preceded by
Jim O'Brien
Ottawa Senators first round draft pick
Succeeded by
Jared Cowen
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Jason Spezza
Ottawa Senators captain
Succeeded by