What Makes Erik Karlsson the NHL’s Best Defenceman

January 7th, 2016 by Jonathan Willis Leave a reply »

At the halfway point of the 2015-16 NHL season, Erik Karlsson stands alone in leading both all NHL defenceman and all Ottawa Senators skaters in points. He’s the clear front-runner to win the Norris Trophy for a third time as the league’s best rearguard.

Despite his successes, Karlsson is dogged by a reputation for weak defensive play. He’s seen as lacking in size and strength, his work ethic in the defensive zone has been called out and his willingness to play aggressive hockey with the puck is often looked upon with suspicion. Is he really deserving of the plaudits he’s received?

Any conversation must start with Karlsson’s unique offensive gifts, gifts he has demonstrated time and again. It's a rare thing indeed to see an NHL defenceman take the puck in the defensive zone, charge up the ice and then start and finish a give-and-go play.

He has 42 points in just 40 games this season, which ranks fourth among all NHL players. Going over the plays in which he picked up a point reveals a combination of the obviously exciting and the deceptively ordinary.

Much ...

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