Karlsson

 

Hidden amidst the madness that was the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, a subtle trade took place that could have major implications on next season's fantasy goalie scene. The Calgary Flames quietly acquired Färjestad's Henrik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks for a sixth-round draft pick. Although he has no experience in North America, fantasy managers could really benefit from owning Karlsson, who just might be Miikka Kiprusoff’s newest backup.

 

For a goalie that was born way back in 1983, many are led to believe that Karlsson might not be able to handle any kind of duties at the NHL level. But ask yourself this: how much would you want to spend on a 26-year-old backup for Kiprusoff? And what if you knew that backup had no pro experience in North America whatsoever? Well, by looking at his CapGeek.com details, you’ll see that Calgary could sign him for a very cost-effective price.

 

But why exactly do I feel Karlsson could be a shoe-in for the backup job? Two words: Jonas. Gustavsson.

 

Gustavsson, who was signed last summer after a breakout season with Färjestad, had quite the successful second half of his rookie NHL season. In fact, it was simply "Mastertonic" in scale. There were plenty of rough outings in the first half, but nobody could argue with his post-Olympics play. Everything I suggested at the time regarding his odds of improving came to fruition at a ridiculous rate, as all of his weaknesses sharply improved in March and April. And now, less than one year later, the sky is the limit for the highly-touted Swedish import.

 

Fast forward a few months later and you'll enter a parallel universe. Gustavsson's last name is Karlsson and Toronto is now Calgary. Both of them had the same goalie coach in Farjestad and both of them play similar styles. They both wear the same kind of pads, they both have great size. And ironically, they both pushed Vesa Toskala out of town. It’s kind of eerie, it’s kind of cool, but it really lends a hand to predicting what might happen next with Karlsson.

 

That being said, there's very little that leads me to believe the Flames are going to sign or acquire another goalie. Why pay a 26-year-old prospect and give him performance bonuses to play in the AHL? Well, to be honest it's not July 1 yet, so I can't say any of this is for sure. but as of today, there's a strong chance Karlsson claims the role.

 

For those concerned about Kiprusoff's play (I personally thought he was great last season, just too complacent), what's one of the best ways to motivate a Finnish goalie? Stick a big, thirsty Swede right behind him and let the coach start him as often as possible. That will easily light a fire under Kiprusoff and keep him from losing his edge and focus. If they were to split the workload 60-20, they could quickly re-live the good ol' days when they had the best European tandem in the league.

 

As you’ll see in the video, Karlsson has legit NHL skills and his chances of evolving into an NHL starter in the next 2-3 years depends solely on his ability to display a strong work ethic and compete hard during the off-season, in training camp, and pending him making all of the cuts, during every single NHL minute he plays. If he accomplishes that, his skills will take care of the rest and his fantasy value will continue to rise. My original upside had him pinned for "Average NHL starter" but getting out of the KHL deal could push his value much higher in a few more months.

 

The main preface when it comes to scouting Karlsson is the fact that his style has a ton of similarities to Gustavsson. They exist on many levels, all rooted in their training with Sweden's most popular goalie coach, Erik Granqvist, who worked closely with both goalies while they played with Farjestad. Granqvist has also worked with Jacob Markstrom, Anders Lindback and Joacim Eriksson (thanks to steffeG for those tidbits).

 

So watch the video of Karlsson below and check out The Goalie Guild’s scouting report! Then you make the call – will he play in Calgary, Abbotsford, the KHL or back in Sweden this season? Either way, he’ll be moving up from his #43 ranking in my Top-100 Fantasy Prospects. Oh, how quickly things can change.

 

 

 

Calm demeanor with great agility for his size … has an intimidating net presence … very quiet footwork and balanced movements allow him to play patiently and let pucks hit him … rarely caught out of position or seen diving for a puck … extremely solid butterfly technique … very quick recovery for his size … reads plays extremely well … strong legs allows him to execute explosive lateral pushes with ease … great post coverage in the vertical-horizontal stance … keeps his back extremely straight in the butterfly and covers the top corners very well … square shoulders allows for very balanced lateral and angled pushes … when forced to scramble, he still has great visual attachment to the puck … snaps his knees down to the ice very quickly … has a tight butterfly that effectively seals all holes … original “up” stance is average width with hunched over shoulders, very similar to Gustavsson … has a tremendous absorption rate on high shots and swallows them often … does not have to fend off traffic or screens very often thanks to the space his body demands in the crease … when he’s down, he’s never out, for he rarely loses his net, his balance or positioning … does a great job of fully committing to the butterfly on screened shots … needs to improve his stick handling and puck-moving abilities … needs to push out and challenge shooters on a more consistent basis … bats or punches out blocker-side shots instead of turning the blocker over and re-directing them … rebound control needs  improvement, especially on low shots to the opposite-side pad … plays with a very consistent level of energy … does not show signs of wearing down after executing a strenuous series of movements

 

As I watched this video, I was constantly reminded of Gustavsson. By the end, it became quite clear to me that Sweden has once again taken another step in their coaching evolution. This is just some fantastic work by the goalie coaches at Farjestad. They allow for big goalies to effectively seal and eliminate holes but still appear very large in net, while also being able to make a reflex save when needed. Gustavsson and Karlsson are perfect hybrids of positional and reactionary styles, and they also have strong work ethics to go along with their arsenal of skills.

 

My favorite aspect of Karlsson’s play in the video was his situational awareness. Because he’s able to read these plays and scoring chances so well, he appeared extremely patient, and very confident in his positioning. He has great awareness of what the shooter is going to do, so he reads plays well and is then able to get set quickly. On the few occasions where he couldn’t get set and had to scramble, he had great flexibility and quickly covered loose pucks.

 

Similar to Gustavsson, Karlsson also appears to set up for shots a step deeper in his crease. This will probably be tweaked over time, but as a result, he can travel post-to-post much quicker than if he played a step or two higher. This is one of the biggest advantages to having a 6-foot-6 frame. Not only is Karlsson able to cover the same amount of space as a goalie 3-4 inches shorter, he doesn’t have to stretch as much to pick off shots to the upper corners or just inside the posts.

 

One area that this makes Karlsson really effective is on back-door plays and cross-ice passes that are one-timed on goal. It won’t take much of an effort for Karlsson to drop a knee and slide that pad at severe angles needed to seal off the opposite post. We’ve seen Gustavsson execute that kind of save more than a few times last season, and Henrik is certainly capable of doing the same thing.

 

I could go on and on about the subtle comparisons between the two Farjestad products, but the point has clearly been made. He’s capable of being as effective, if not more so, than Gustavsson. He’s already got the advantages of size, net presence, experience and patience. His skills are NHL-ready and he only has to undergo the same transition process as Gustavsson to be successful. The only real hurdle will be the lack of games he’ll play behind Kiprusoff. Regardless, Calgary is a few days away from potentially duplicating Toronto’s process from last summer.

 

DRAFT REFLECTIONS

 

Be sure to check out my NHL Draft Tracker for audioblogs and in-depth analysis of the first 12 goalies taken overall.

 

Phoenix did a great job drafting two tremendous goalies. Mark Visentin was a surprise pick to many, but he was the Coyotes’ preferred goalie, so they must be happy to have him in the system. Getting Louis Domingue didn’t surprise me because he’s very similar to Josh Tordjman. They are both flashy QMJHL prospects with a lot of raw skills.

 

What a glorious day for the Avalanche. They found a way to trade down from the 47th to the 49th choice and miraculously the top-ranked domestic goalie by CSS, Calvin Pickard, was still available. Then almost 60 picks later, the Avs somehow managed to gobble up the talented top-ranked International goalie from Finland, Sami Aittokallio. My amazing high came to a sudden crash, however, when Adrian Dater informed me there will be no Development Camp for the Avalanche this summer. Yikes!

 

The Devils finally drafted some goalies! It had been since Jeff Frazee was chosen in 2005 that New Jersey nabbed a netminder. But that all changed when they went “off the board” and drafted Scott Wedgewood from the Plymouth Whalers. Wedgewood trained with the same goalie coach that helped mold Jack Campbell over the past three years, so he could evolve into a great goalie. Maxime Clermont is a quality QMJHL prospect, but similar to most goalies in the Devils’ system, they both have very small frames. Clermont is listed at 6-foot-0 and Wedgewood at just 6-foot-1.

 

I really wonder about Edmonton’s ability to draft goalies after last weekend. Goaltending is one of their biggest areas of concern and they totally passed up Calvin Pickard with the 48th pick, just one pick before Colorado grabbed him. Instead they waited until the 5th round to grab one of the weakest goalies available in Tyler Bunz from Medicine Hat. They also passed up both Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel and Louis Domingue. Not sure what’s up with that, folks.

 

Some really interesting trends popped up with other goalies chosen in the draft. Florida took Sam Brittain really high compared to his current playing level, but it may have been due to a relationship they have with the University of Denver Pioneers. That’s where Marc Cheverie developed and that’s where Brittain will be playing next season.

 

Chicago drafted two goalies from the WHL in Kent Simpson (Everett) and Mac Carruth (Portland). Both are very similar in size and stature and both were born one day apart on March 25 and 26, 1992. Simpson is listed at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds while Carruth is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds. But Kent is from Edmonton and Mac is from Utah.

 

I love the pick of Johan Gustafsson by the Minnesota Wild. The kid has a really calm and relaxed demeanor and is very fun to coach and be around. The Wild seem to have a knack for finding laid back yet fairly eccentric European goalies that are quiet on the surface but really engaging behinds the scenes. Gustaffson is a great Swedish prospect with decent size (6-foot-2) and skill, so they essentially stole him at 159th overall.

 

Cam Lanigan was the highest-ranked Domestic goalie not chosen in the draft and I have no answer for why he was passed up. His training partner, Brittain, is the less-talented goalie and has less experience. But the X-factor had to be Florida’s affinity for DU goalies. Straight up, I don’t know how he was passed up, so I was wrong on that one!

 


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Justin Goldman said:

GoalieGuild
... Larry, we know now that Karlsson's deal is one-way, so it really does look like this is Gustavsson 2.0 situation. So even though he's headed straight for NHL action, your points are still quite valid and "true" in what they mean. I'm really glad I chose to cover Karlsson with this article because it turns out the Flames see a lot of what we on Dobber are seeing. He's very good, he's bigger than Gustavsson and he's got more maturity. For $500 K as a capable backup, it's a complete steal. The only difference I see between the two is that Gustavsson was an RFA and was signed after the season, but Karlsson's deal will make him an UFA come July 1 ... if the Flames don't re-sign him.

So like Dobber said on Sunday and I reinforced on Monday, Flames followed up by giving him a one-way deal on Tuesday. That's a pretty good sign he's got a chance of being a sleeper fantasy option. But just like we'll always wonder with Gustavsson, who knows how 20 games in the AHL will have affected their play or future careers.
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Larry said:

Rollie1967
Kippers backup Goldie- I wouldnt think signing a 3rd goalie with NHL experience at the minimum (even if he plays in the AHL all year) wouldnt be an economic issue for the Flames,but with no NHL experience wouldnt Karlsson benefit more by playing every night in AHL-atleast for the first half of the season when Kipper plays 90&#xof; the games? Getting used to the travel, the language/culture (not sure if thats a problem for him)and most importantly- the smaller surface and the different angles it brings? I would be of the mindset that 20 or so games in the minors getting his feet wet would help him out (less immediate pressure)and the 3rd goalie (say Curtis Sanford/Steve Valiquette) could be kept around for injury insurance the rest of the season. If the Rangers still have the rights to Corey Hirsch- maybe Sutter would bite smilies/grin.gif
June 29, 2010
Votes: +0

Justin Goldman said:

GoalieGuild
... I think he just failed to make it high enough on any teams' short list for a goalie. It's not always about where CSS ranks a goalie, but whether or not a team's scouts likes him for very specific reasons. I think Conz has the ability to develop into an NHL goalie, but he needs to be drafted first. Another season of hard work and development might get him drafted next summer, otherwise he's a pretty long shot. He'll have to stand on his head in international play again and show marked improvements in order to appeal to maybe 15 of 30 teams that would be looking to draft a goalie next summer. All hope is not lost, but his chances are slowly slipping away.
June 28, 2010
Votes: +0

JW said:

revengespoon
... any idea why benjamin conz, the swiss prospect was passed up yet again? i was quite impressed with his play during the WJC and was hoping he'd get a shot in NA. how do you rank his skillset and his chances at ever making the NHL? i know his size isn't great but surely the skill he displayed at the WJC would interest an NHL team sooner or later...
June 28, 2010
Votes: +0
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