Erik Karlsson is a six-foot, 180 pound 21-year old from Sweden. Erik Karlsson plays for the Ottawa Senators. Erik Karlsson might be the NHL favourite to win the Norris Trophy.
Before you get all up in arms, let’s talk. Or rather, let’s listen to someone else together.
Earlier today Ian Mendes of Sportsnet wrote a story simply titled “Karlsson a Norris Candidate” that outlined some interesting tidbits about how his season stacks up against past winners.
Of note: Karlsson is now 17 points ahead of the next highest scoring d-man in the NHL, Brian Campbell. That’s first in D points (57), first in D assists (45, 3rd most overall), and 2nd in D goals (12, one behind Jason Garrison).
If he pots a couple more on the way to the finish line, he could finish 1, 1, 1. That ain’t too bad, last I checked.
Mendes takes a look at how defencemen who’ve led every category have fared over the past 30 years in Norris voting:
There were only two occasions when a player led all defencemen in goals, assists and points and was NOT a finalist for the Norris Trophy: Brian Leetch in 2000-01 and Paul Coffey in 1988-89. But upon further inspection, Leetch was sporting a -18 that season, while Coffey was worse with a -25 rating. Karlsson should be immune to being lumped into that group, considering he currently has a +14 rating.
But seriously, if this kid, with his Hockey Hair Extrordinaire finishes tops in every category, you can’t keep him out of the final three. That shouldn’t be much of a debate, assuming he’s not eeking out the categories by a couple points, which doesn’t look like it’ll be the case.
Mendes notes that last year’s points leader, Lubomir Visnovsky, finished with similar numbers to where Karlsson is headed (he had 18 and 50 for 68), but he was a mere six points up on second place Nick Lidstrom after 82 games. Karlsson is going Tiger-Woods-US-Open-at-Pebble-Beach-in-2000 on the field (Woods won by 15 strokes).
Here’s more from Mendes:
During this same time span (last 30 years), there have been only five occasions where a defenceman finished a full season with at least a 15-point advantage in the scoring race over the next leading blueliner. And in every case, the defenceman was at least a finalist in the Norris voting.
And of those five, Paul Coffey won two and finished second twice, while Brian Leetch won his. Sooo, your odds of contending are pretty good.
He’s one of the major reasons the Senators, the team I tossed aside as the worst team in the East with such condescension during preseason, are sitting inside the playoff bubble, a whopping two points out of a home ice spot.
I still think the Senators will miss the playoffs (sorry), and if that happens you can disregard this article. But in the event that I’m wrong and they do hold on (and he keeps up his pace), it’ll be awfully hard to ignore him.
Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber have a side to their respective games that he doesn’t – they’re physical beasts. But Karlsson obviously has something they lack too. As I mentioned, he’d have to run away with the scoring lead for his “something” to mean more than physical play, but it’s looking like a very real possibility.
Oh, and don’t look now, but he’s damn near about to lap the venerable Nick Lidstrom in the scoring race. The kid’s on quite a tear.
If the season ended today, I’d give it to him. Would you?
(Update: After posting, I feared there’d be some advanced stat-folk who may bring me some shocking news of some glaring deficiency. Nope. He checks out just fine. PDO of 1.017, good Corsi.)