Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.
When Linus Karlsson was acquired by General Manager Jim Benning at the 2019 NHL trade deadline in exchange for Jonathan Dahlen most Vancouver Canucks’ fans were more than disappointed. They felt cheated in getting only a mid tier NHL third round drafted prospect for Dahlen, who most perceived prematurely as Elias Pettersson’s first line left side wingman for the next decade or so in the Canucks’ line-up.
Ironically the elder Dahlen and younger Karlsson both toil in the second tier Allsvenskan league in Sweden. Dahlen is a two point per game superstar at this level but appears content to play out his hockey years in his home town. Karlsson, however, appears focused on pursuing an NHL job.
When he was acquired by the Canucks’ in 2019, he was finishing up his first season in the Allsvenskan professional league as a 19 year rookie putting up a mediocre 5 goals and 18 points in 52 games for Karlskrona HK. In his second season with Karlskrona, he was relegated mostly to a bottom six forward role but still managed to produce 8 goals and 22 points in 36 games. It was at this point that he decided to bet on himself and he exercised a mid-season out clause in his contract allowing him to pursue employment with a new Allsvenskan club.
He then found himself a new team that promised him top six forward minutes if he earned them.
Since the team switch he has earned his increased role and ice time. He has produced at a more than a point per game pace and he has become a top ten scoring leader in the league.
I have had a chance to watch a significant number of Karlsson’s games with both Karlskrona and Karlskoga since the Canucks’ acquired him. He is a natural center who is comfortable playing both wings as well. He has looked most effective playing on left wing even though he is a right handed shot.
Here is a relatively recent deep dive by Daniel Gee into one of Karlsson’s games.
#Canucks Linus Karlsson had 1G & 3A on November 18th. Karlsson did a good job finding teammates who were left woefully open. He attempted a zorro/Michigan in the 2nd and had some scoring chances he should have converted. Still working on pace of play.— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) November 21, 2020
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He appears to have grown and bulked out physically since I first watched him play early in 2019. He has above average hands, a very good shot and he is a good puck distributor. He has above average hockey sense and does not shy away from physical play. He is also a solid defensive player. His foot speed will need to continue to improve if he is to some day play in the NHL.
When I watch him play, he reminds me of former Canuck Josh Leivo and current Canuck Zack MacEwen. I have also had an occasional reverse Todd Bertuzzi flashback when he does something especially skillful. I think he has a decent chance of making the NHL as a versatile bottom six forward with the ability to play up the line-up and put some offence on the board if his skating improves.
What’s next for Karlsson?
Covid-19 willing, he hopes to help lead Karlskoga to win promotion to the top tier SHL for next season. While his club is currently the fourth best club in the 14-team Allsvenskan league, Dahlen’s Timra club and the league’s Bjorkloven team are both stacked with top players and are the favourites to win promotion.
When the season ends, I expect that Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning will try and sign him to an NHL entry-level-contract and convince him to play in North America next season for the Utica Comets.
Benning: "(Linus) Karlsson is a player our scouts like and we looked at drafting. With Dahlen, we signed him and in Utica he's been up and down in development. We like the player we were getting back. Dahlen's agent asked if we could trade him. This is a lateral move." #Canucks— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) February 25, 2019