2021-22 Player Review: William Karlsson still productive despite statistical regression

William Karlsson’s season was his least productive in terms of point output, but he remains one of the Golden Knights’ more important forwards.

In the 2021-22 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2021-22 performances of each key member of the Golden Knights. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in the regular season with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role.

One of the few remaining members of the O.G. Golden Misfits squad, William Karlsson entered the 2021-22 season coming off his least productive season as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights — at least in terms of raw point production. After logging just 39 points in Vegas’ 56-game COVID-19-shortened season, many were left wondering if the 29-year-old would ever return to his near-point-per-game 2017-18 form. As expected, that didn’t happen this season, and those hopes are frankly unrealistic at this stage of Wild Bill’s career. But while Karlsson’s annual point production continued to fall, he remained one of the Golden Knights’ most useful forwards in 2021-22.

Season in review

Karlsson’s campaign didn’t get off to the most ideal start. After logging just three points in his first eight games of the season, Karlsson missed over a month of action with a broken foot. When he returned to the lineup, though, he regained the form of the versatile, 200-foot stalwart Golden Knights fans have come to adore over the last five seasons.

However, things don’t quite look that way on paper.

Karlsson logged his smallest point total since joining the Golden Knights with just 35 in 67 games. In fact, his point totals have dropped every season since the Golden Knights’ inaugural campaign, as have his goal and assist numbers. But despite the clear statistical regression, Karlsson still dominated in terms of play-driving.

Of all Golden Knights skaters with at least 200 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, Karlsson led the pack with a very good 57.68 Corsi For percentage. His 50.72 Goals For percentage was largely unimpressive, but even though he barely scraped by the 50-percent mark, the Golden Knights held a significant advantage in quality scoring chances while Karlsson was on the ice at 5-on-5, as is reflected by his stellar 55.71 Expected Goals For percentage.

Away from 5-on-5, Karlsson remained a weapon for the Golden Knights on the penalty kill. Even though he missed a good chunk of the season, Karlsson still ranked toward the top of the Golden Knights’ roster in shorthanded time on ice with over 102 minutes. And, of course, the shorthanded duo of Karlsson and Reilly Smith still terrorized opponents as the pairing combined for four shorthanded tallies on the year.

Karlsson probably won’t ever pull off another 40-goal campaign like the one he put together in 2017-18. But even without the incessant goal scoring, Karlsson is still an extremely useful player for the Golden Knights in just about every facet of the game.

Looking ahead

Karlsson may be a key member of the Golden Knights’ core, but his contract takes up a pretty significant chunk of cap space. He has five years remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $5.9 million, and with the Golden Knights in a cap crunch, it’s not completely out of the question that Karlsson could be moved in order to clear up some space.

Still, while not totally inconceivable, the likelihood of Karlsson not being a member of the Golden Knights next season is pretty slim. Despite his downward trajectory, at least from an offensive standpoint, Karlsson remains a good player who can play just about any role asked of him. Without question, the Golden Knights are a much better with him on the roster.

Knights On Ice grade: B

How would you grade Karlsson’s season?


All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving-Hockey and NHL.com.