by PuckStopsHere on 02/03/12 at 02:09 PM ET
It is quite an achievement that Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators is the top scoring defenceman in the league. He currently has 48 points in 52 games played. This gives him a 12 point lead over any other defenceman in the league. This season is already his career best offensive total. That is quite an achievement for a 21 year old player.
Karlsson is playing against top competition. No other Senator regular plays against as tough competition. His +7 +/- rating is among the best on his team. He is starting to be seen as a solid Norris Trophy candidate. I would argue that three more well-rounded defencemen exist in front of him in Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber and Nicklas Lidstrom, but he is the best of the next group.
Given Karlsson’s youth, it is very reasonable to expect that he will be a Norris Trophy contender for years to come if he can keep up this level of play. If he can continue to improve at his current rate, he could become the top player in the league.
Karlsson is not a big hockey player. At 6 feet and only 180 pounds he cannot play a physical game. His defensive game is mostly a positional one. That makes him significantly smaller than Chara or Weber and a bit smaller than Lidstrom. Conventional wisdom often claims that it is hard to be a top defenceman in the NHL unless you are big enough excel at physical play. Nicklas Lidstrom is somewhat of a glaring exception to that claim. Karlsson is smaller still but incredibly talented. It will be fun to see how good he can get.
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