The Vancouver Canucks have officially locked up one of their most intriguing prospects.
The team took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon, announcing that they had signed forward Linus Karlsson to a two-year, entry-level contract worth $925,000 USD per year, just a few days before the league’s signing deadline.
Originally drafted 87th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Karlsson was eventually acquired by the Canucks’ organization just 18 months later, in exchange for fellow prospect Jonathan Dahlen.
The Canucks always had interest in Karlsson, who was available to the team during the second round. As we all know, the management and scouting team went in another direction with that pick, selecting Tyler Madden 68th overall.
Madden is now a part of the Los Angeles Kings’ organization after being included in the package that brought Tyler Toffoli to Vancouver during the 2019-20 season.
Since his trade back in February 2019, however, Karlsson continued to play hockey in Sweden, splitting time between Karlskrona HK and BIK Karlskoga of the HockeyAllsvenskan league from 2018 to 2011, as well as Skellefteå AIK of the top-tier Swedish Hockey League this past season.
With his new NHL contract officially under his belt, Karlsson’s next step with the Canucks will be to participate in their development prospects camp this summer, which is currently scheduled from July 10th to 15th at UBC.
In the meantime, what should fans expect from the team’s latest Swedish signing?
After being drafted by the Sharks back in 2018, Karlsson put up five goals and 13 assists in 52 games with Karlskrona HK. The 22-year-old Eksjö native was able to increase his offensive production the following year, notching 40 points in 48 games between Karlskrona HK and BIK Karlskoga.
However, Karlsson’s breakthrough season took place just last year after the Swedish centre registered 46 points in 52 games with Skellefteå AIK. Of those 46 points, 26 of them were goals, beating current Canuck star Elias Pettersson, who previously held the SHL record for goals in a season with 24 back in 2017-18.
Karlsson also finished second in team scoring and ninth in league scoring, earning him the SHL’s Rookie of the Year accolades just four years after Pettersson secured the award himself.
Based on his previous point totals, as well as his overall impressive Corsi percentage and shooting volume, it’s no surprise that Karlsson knows how to shoot the puck.
In a past interview with PostMedia, Karlsson shared that he’s “just trying to score goals every game”, a feat that should hopefully transfer to the smaller, North American ice surface.
According to General Manager Patrik Allvin, Karlsson’s strong two-way game should also be an asset for the Canucks’ organization, specifically in Abbotsford, where Karlsson will likely end up to begin the 2022-23 season.
This sentiment was also echoed by Senior Director of Player Development and Abbotsford General Manager Ryan Johnson, who previously touched on Karlsson’s tough development camp last year, as well as what the Swedish prospect brings to the table.
"“His small-areas skill with the things he can do with the puck to put himself in position — and also having a great sense for the game — makes it special and the pace wasn’t an issue for him in the SHL.”"
Like all budding prospects, of course, there are always going to be a few areas of improvement in their game. For Karlsson, that area is his skating and his size.
Clocking in at 6’1″, 179 pounds, Karlsson isn’t exactly the biggest-bodied player in their system. Fortunately for the Canucks, like we saw with Pettersson, it’ll only be a matter of time before Karlsson fills out.
It also sounds like Karlsson has taken big strides (no pun intended) in his overall movement abilities on the ice.
Karlsson spoke briefly on this skill during his interview with Mike Halford and Jason Brough on “The Halford and Brough Show” on Sportsnet 650 on Friday morning, giving credit to Skellefteå AIK’s intense and highly-regarded offseason program.
With his solid combination of shot volume production, hockey coordination and powerplay prowess, as well as his ability to play both centre and wing, Karlsson should be a fascinating prospect to keep an eye on within the organization, both at the AHL and possibly NHL levels.
We’ll just have to wait and see how long it’ll take him to establish himself as a regular contributor in the big leagues.
What are your thoughts on the Linus Karlsson signing? Let us know in the comments!