San Jose Sharks Have Yet to See EK65’s Full Potential

After a debut year in Teal hindered by nagging injuries. Erik Karlsson looks to become a consistent presence on the San Jose Sharks in 2019 – 2020.

Erik Karlsson garnered enough respect from the San Jose Sharks front office to make him the highest paid blueliner in the league. The two parties agreed to an 8 year deal with an AAV of 11.5 million during last summer’s free agency period.

The signing got met with mixed reviews but ultimately the Sharks are determined to keep the 29-year-old in the Bay Area by whatever means necessary. It’s a lofty gamble by Team Teal’s front office, but in today’s league you always have to bet on superstar talent.

Playing in 53 games last season, EK65 was able to put up some monster numbers in Teal. The 29-year-old scored 45 points and compiled a ridiculously impressive point streak consisting of 25 points in just 14 games.

In 2018 – 2019 the blueliner put up his highest assist per 60 rate of his decade long career, while also posting the 2nd best point per 60 pace in his brief time in teal. It might have taken a bit of time to get adjusted to life in San Jose but when he did Karlsson produced some of the best numbers of his career.

Compounding with this is that fact that EK65 posted the lowest shooting percentage of his entire career last season. Prior to his time in San Jose the Swedish defenseman shot an average of 6.7% per season. But last year Karlsson only converted on 1.8% of his shots. This is a drastic dip and unlikely to repeat itself considering how prolific of a scorer he is.

These numbers illustrate that even with Karlsson’s low shooting percentage the blueliner definitely feels right at home on the Sharks. Which makes sense considering this  is arguably the most talent he’s ever been surrounded by.

The San Jose Sharks are relying heavily on Erik Karlsson next season and beyond. So it’s vital that Team Teal doesn’t rush him back from his off-season surgery. However if you asked around training camp you’d get the feeling that EK65 is ready for opening night against the Vegas Golden Knights. Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka asked DeBoer about his initial impressions of Erik Karlsson’s health during his time in training camp.

“He looks totally different than he looked the last couple months of the year,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said of Karlsson. “He was obviously battling through some pretty significant things. He looks like he’s moving effortlessly again, not thinking about it. So, it’ll be nice to have him back at that level.”

Now we have to take these sentiments with a grain of salt considering we haven’t really seen EK65 tested at game speed yet. Nevertheless, it’s always an encouraging sign when the coach feels that they are capable of deploying their skaters in any situation without hesitation.

Prior to his ankle and groin injuries that have slowed him down a bit over the past few seasons Karlsson was typically a constant part of the Senators line-up. Throughout his last 5 seasons in Ottawa, he averaged nearly 79 games per season. And with skaters like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns on the blueline, EK65 can focus more on what he does best instead of being the vocal point in all 3 zones.

The Sharks prioritized signing Erik Karlsson over resigning other skaters up front. Which makes sense considering he is their best opportunity to stay Stanley Cup relevant. Still it was a gamble by San Jose’s front office and only time will tell whether they made the right decision for their franchise.