What the Blue Jackets Can Learn About William Karlsson's Success With The Vegas Golden Knights

By Sam Blazer on December 5, 2017 at 11:04 am
Golden Knights forward William Karlsson skates with the puck against the Kings

Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports

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Zero.

That is how many points William Karlsson had in his first four games as a Vegas Golden Knight. 

It didn't appear likely that the Columbus Blue Jackets would rue the day they let Karlsson go as part of a deal with the Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In his first multi-point game with the Golden Knights against the Blues, Karlsson scored the overtime goal to win the game for Vegas. What he described afterward to the media sounded similar to the refrain he had echoed while with the Blue Jackets.

”We found a way to win and we got two points,” Karlsson said. ”We didn’t have a lot of puck, got outshot, (but) we played really solid defensively. And then we just score on the chances that we get. That’s hockey, I guess.”

That's hockey, I guess. For most of Karlsson's career in the NHL while with the Ducks and Blue Jackets, when Karlsson was on the ice, he was outshot...but was considered a defensive forward.

That night against the Blues though may have proven to be a turning point for him. Karlsson is tied for the team lead in points and is first on the team in goals, so what changed? Did a switch flip and now Karlsson is the second coming of Sidney Crosby?

A little bit of yes and a little bit of no.

His underlying numbers tell a lot of the story.

He is getting similar zone starts to what he had while with Columbus. He also isn't playing with teammates that effect his play that much; mostly skating with Calvert and Anderson, neither saw success and it could be argued that Karlsson was the anchor on that line. In fact, Calvert and Anderson are much improved with different centers and different roles this year.

What changed in Karlsson is both ice time and realization of the player that he is and has been for a while. Looking at what Karlsson did in the Swedish Hockey League and SuperElit tells us that he is a player on par with the great Swedish prospects of the past decade. At the age of 19, he was succeeding in a men's league and averaging well over half a point per game. It makes sense why he was a coveted prospect.

Moving over to North America was a completely different story. He bounced between the AHL and the NHL never putting up numbers that showed that great potential.

His best season in the NHL was with the Blue Jackets last season and for a player of his age, it was underwhelming. He did well in the playoffs against the Penguins but his regular season was below average. His shot differential was poor and showed minimal offensive potential. 

Reading over the pathway that Karlsson took to the league and how long it took him to finally find his feet in the league, it's hard to fault the Blue Jackets. He isn't the same player that they exposed in the expansion draft. 

Karlsson's 25% shooting percentage will regress and likely normalize, but even shooting the puck at his average, Karlsson is distributing the puck like never before. 

A change of scenery is the "writer speak" for a player that needed to get the hell out of dodge, but for Karlsson, that change allowed him to showcase the player he always was in an opportunity that he wouldn't have received anywhere else. 

He was a diamond that would've stayed covered in Columbus, and it makes sense that he's shining in Las Vegas.

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