Position: LW/RW Current Team: Frolunda, J20 SuperElit/Mora, Alssvenskan Date of Birth: August 3, 1996 Place of Birth: Lerum, Sweden Height: 6'2" Weight: 194 lbs Catches: Left
Off to Sweden for a big, talented winger with an apparent edge to his game. Anton Karlsson--the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes' prospect Erik Karlsson --has been on NHL Draft radars for awhile. He brings speed, savvy, skill and the physical game, all in one package.
Karlsson amassed nearly point per game numbers in 2013-2014 at the junior level, playing with brother Erik. Though young, he impresses onlookers with his maturity on the ice, and his ability to adjust to game circumstances. He also apparently carries more than a little bite, as his 88 PIM in 28 games would indicate. Here's Karlsson's own assessment of his current game:
I am a very physical player and I love to take the positive energy to my team . . .I like my role in the game.
Karlsson ranked as the #11 European skater in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings, but is curiously absent from the ISS Top 30, where he was ranked as high as #5 at the beginning of the 2013-2014 campaign. A lot of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that Karlsson finds himself in that dreaded nether world -- too good for Swedish juniors, but not quite ready for the big time. His Frolunda performance attracted attention, and he was loaned to Mora of the more rugged Allsvenskan -- just one notch below the Swedish Elite League. Predictably, as a 17-year old who was already the youngest member of the Sweden's silver medal club at the World Juniors, Anton struggled with the transition.
All of this translates into a single word . . . time. The kid is 17, so has plenty of time to adjust his game to the new level of competition. Of course, there is risk involved, as the hockey graveyards are filled with kids who dominate juniors but can never get their game up to NHL standards. Karlsson has the raw gifts, and is in a great hockey system in Sweden, where plenty of other stars were born. Only time will tell if Anton will join those ranks.
A Good Fit in Columbus?
Karlsson is a more difficult case to evaluate, simply because there are some question marks as he is challenged to play against higher levels of competition. Should his draft rank be contingent upon his performance in Swedish juniors, or his struggles at what would be Sweden's rough equivalent to the AHL? Probably unfair to do either one, given the fact that he is only 17.
Any club drafting Karlsson will have to decide whether to keep him in the Swedish system for the time being, or bring him over to the see how he fares against his North American peers. He is likely two or three years out from having a realistic shot at cracking an NHL roster, so the Blue Jackets would need to look at their needs down the line, not just now.
Assuming Columbus keeps their #16 pick, Karlsson would likely not be in the cards. There are other better choices at that level, and Karlsson's current status really seems more suited to a second round selection. Could he drop far enough to be obtainable in the second round? Perhaps, but not a likely scenario.