Editor’s note: We’re continuing our expansion draft profiles, and we’re getting to the home stretch. If you’ve missed any of our profiles, make sure to click here.
The Vegas Golden Knights had a chance to fleece the Columbus Blue Jackets. They didn’t have to allow a team — that somehow finished third in the Eastern Conference with 108 points — a chance to keep its core intact. General manager George McPhee gave that opportunity, and Columbus gave Vegas the kitchen sink.
I strongly believe an actual kitchen sink came with William Karlsson from Columbus.
The Golden Knights, with promise of not taking winger Josh Anderson or young goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, took the 24-year-old Swedish center with its expansion draft selection from Columbus. In return, Vegas took on the contract of David Clarkson, the No. 24 pick in this year’s NHL Draft (which was traded to Winnipeg for the No. 13 pick) and a 2019 second-round pick.
Vegas is getting a young player who played well on a 108-point team, but it could’ve gotten more. This is a potential-based pick.
A really unique player
Not many centers will accumulate more PIM (10) than goals scored (six), but that’s what the Golden Knights invested with Karlsson.
What Karlsson lacks in goal scoring, he makes up for by setting up his teammates. He’s a solid two-way player with quality passing ability. As Columbus’ third-line center, Karlsson racked up 30 assists in two seasons. He sees the ice well and moves well for his 6-foot-1 frame.
Karlsson also possesses a powerful left-handed shot. Don’t blink, you’ll miss the puck.
At 189 pounds, Karlsson lacks the physical size for a prototypical two-way player. He makes up for that with great puck instincts and quick reactions. This play on Feb. 4 against the New Jersey Devils is a great example.
Taking advantage of a lackadaisical New Jersey power play unit, Karlsson forces the turnover and fires the puck to a wide-open Matt Calvert for the easy short-handed goal. It may look like a simple play, but still really good.
That play is a perfect example of Karlsson’s skills. He possesses the instincts of a quality defenseman, but still has the wherewithal to make the right offensive play to the right player. Karlsson has potential to be a really good bottom-six player for the Golden Knights, with the slim chance of cracking to the top six with a good camp and preseason.
Room for improvement
Depending on where you stand on the faceoff debate, this might not matter. But Karlsson has not been a good faceoff center the last two years, winning only 45.5 percent of them. Last year, Karlsson’s 45.3 faceoff percentage was the lowest among all Blue Jackets with at least 500 faceoffs.
That’ll be fine if he continues to do those other things well, but if Karlsson wants to ascend to the top six at some point, he’ll need to win possessions for his squad.
He can also benefit by becoming more of a scorer. Karlsson should use those instincts in front of the net. He’s already proven capable of scoring really nice goals against his new star goalie teammate.
A lot of potential
Karlsson is one of those players who you’d like to bet will develop into a star — if anything, a really good top-six player will do fine.
He’ll get a chance to be a part of this Golden Knights youth movement that has been heavily focused on, and he’ll get a fair opportunity to climb up the line at some point.
Him and his kitchen sink will get the chance.