No. 1 choice enjoying Swede success

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN -- The bright lights of the NHL don't shine quite so bright for Erik Karlsson.

The Senators top draft pick in June looked like most 18-year-olds yesterday, wearing a toque and a white-zippered hoodie, except he rolled up to a downtown hotel in a steel-blue BMW.

Not bad for an 18-year-old from a little town ("about 2,000 villagers," he said) from the south of Sweden.

Much better than, say, your 18-year-old Canadian kids playing junior hockey for 60 bucks a week and can't wait for the chance to get a sniff of what the NHL has to offer.

So, has it been a tough adjustment moving from little Lannskede to a city with a population of almost a million people?

"I like it really good," said Karlsson, who is likely doing much better than your stock portfolio right now playing defence for the Frolunda Indians, who will play the Senators in an exhibition game here tomorrow night at the Scandinavium arena.

What's not to like?

It's a culture change that's been embraced by Karlsson, who, when asked if there was a player he modeled his game after, replied: "I didn't have any clue about the other world until I was about 14," he said. "There was our little league and you didn't know about the rest of the world. You always played the video games and it was always more fun to have role models like (Mats) Sundin, (Peter) Forsberg and (Daniel) Alfredsson, yeah, the guys who do goals."

Karlsson is playing 16 or 17 minutes a game (and earning considerably more than $60 a week) with the Indians in their third defensive pairing. In Monday night's win over Rogle (the Indians' first regulation win in seven games to start the season), he had a goal and an assist and showed the offensive prowess which led the Senators to take him 15th overall.

Karlsson said he was more concerned with winning than impressing his future bosses.

"You don't try to think too much about who's watching you. You just want to win the game. They get a chance to see me and that's very good," he said.

Especially when his backhand saucer pass in the neutral zone to a cutting teammate, which led to the Indians' first goal, was right on the tape.

"Who on our team on the blue line can do that? That's what he does," said Senators GM Bryan Murray. "I watched him in the warmup and the level of shooting and passing he's at is way ahead of most young players we've seen. He's really smart, a good player. He just has to get a little more strength (he looks like he weighs 160 and was pushed off the puck once or twice). The year over here certainly won't hurt him."

Or maybe two?

This is the final year of his deal with the Indians, but Karlsson, a riverboat gambler on the ice, was playing his cards a little close to his hoodie yesterday.

"I have no real rush. I don't want to come over unprepared. I don't want to come over and start off in the farm league there in Binghamton. If it means I have to stay one more year here, I will probably do that."

Okay, so we've established the kid is smart.

Why take a chance on going to Bingo when you have Gothenburg?


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