BOSTON — When Erik Karlsson was pulled aside by his coach Tuesday morning, it was a flashback to his schoolboy days in Sweden.
Of course, for the 20-year-old Karlsson, that wasn’t so long ago, either.
“It was like when the principal wanted to talk to you,” the giddy Senators defenceman said. “You expected the worst. Sometimes you came out of there and you had it right, sometimes you had it wrong.”
In his second NHL season, Karlsson has had it more right than wrong. The scoring and the flash have overshadowed the mistakes. His immense potential has been displayed more often than many might have expected at this stage of what will be a long career.
And because of it, Karlsson is about to play in what for him is sure to be many NHL all-star games.
“Cory (Clouston) told me he wanted to talk to me, and I didn’t expect that,” he said when asked how he found out he was named as the Senators’ lone representative on the Eastern Conference squad Tuesday.
“I expected something else maybe. That’s what you do, when someone wants to talk to you. You always expect the worst. That’s how it works. Then you’re prepared for everything.”
Like being told you’re a healthy scratch, which Karlsson was for two games in late November. He returned to the lineup with a vengeance, and following Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to the Bruins, Karlsson is second in team scoring with 25 points that includes a team-leading 17 assists.
“I think he’s been more focused,” Clouston said of the change in Karlsson since the benchings. “He’s been prepared mentally for each game. I think sometimes for a young guy that has a tendency to think it’s going to come a little bit easier, they forget at times what it took for them to have success the previous season.
“I just think through experience, he’s been able to make better decisions, for the most part, with the puck. We saw him last couple of games, he has had some turnovers. We need him to eliminate those.”
And because his quickness and hockey sense makes up for what he lacks in size and strength, Karlsson is not just a one-dimensional player.
“He’s one of the best young skilled defenceman in the league,” said Clouston. “And we right now have no problem matching him up against the top lines as well. So his defensive game has come a long way.”
Daniel Alfredsson, who been almost like a father to Karlsson since his arrival in Ottawa last season, had a tone of pride in his voice as he spoke of his countryman.
“It’s obviously great for him, to be able to experience an all-star game,” said Alfredsson. “He’s been one of the bright spots in our season. Tremendous ability ... sometimes you forget he’s only 20, the way he plays out there. And sometimes you can see he’s 20. He brings a lot of energy to us every day. He’s one of those players who’s just going to get better and better.”
Karlsson immediately reached for his phone and after getting the news from Clouston.
A long distance call went to his parents, another to his girlfriend.
“They just asked me if I was joking with them, or if it was April 1 or something,” he said of the conversation with his mom and dad. “But obviously they were very happy. They’re very excited.”
Karlsson is looking forward to meeting players from other teams at the all-star game, which will be played Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C.
“You play against them so much, you know how they are on the ice,” he said. “I think it’s going to be fun to talk to some guys and see how they are off the ice, how they behave and what kind of personalty they have.”
Along with his youthful enthusiasm, Karlsson may even bring with him to the festivities a few tricks from his schoolboy days.
Asked how often he was sent to the principal’s office back then, Karlsson said “a lot of times.”
Never for anything too serious, he insisted.
“I never got expelled or anything like,” he said. “Things you did when you were a kid. Did some pranks on other kids, or the teachers, maybe. Sometimes you’d miss a class ... just small things like that.”
The sccoop on Locke
This is how Cory Clouston explained the team’s decision to recall Jim O’Brien rather than AHL scoring leader Corey Locke to fill the roster hole left vacant by the injury to Alex Kovalev: “I would say right now there’s a couple of guys down there ... if you want to look at just sheer goals, (Locke) is not a pure goal scorer down there. Right now, we lost a right winger and he’s not a right winger. It would require a few more line juggles to bring him up here.” Locke could be in line to get his shot with the big team this week. The Senators wanted to see him play one more time, Tuesday in Portland. Locke had two goals and two assists in a 5-2 win.
Dean Brown just can’t believe his longtime broadcast partner, Gord Wilson, turns 50 Wednesday. “Is Gord only 50?” Brown asked. “I knew Gord when he didn’t have any kids, and now he has what? Eleven?”
Things I think I think
Officials must have figured there was no sense in having more than a 100 caps tossed on the ice for naught, which had to be the reason they awarded a second-period goal to Patrice Bergeron even though it clearly went in off Sergei Gonchar’s skate. The goal, which would have completed Bergeron’s hat trick, was later given to its proper owner, Brad Marchand. Bergeron completed his hat trick for real in the third period ... Great tilt between Matt Carkner and Shawn Thornton midway through the second. The two bruisers chucked, and seemed to land, a number of punches, before Carkner ended things with a big right that put Thornton to the ice. Carkner has now put down three of the league’s top heavyweights in his past three fights, for those scoring at home ... Daniel Alfredsson is perfectly fine with being excluded from this season’s all-star festivities. “It’s obviously a great honour, to be in the all-star game, but Erik (Karlsson) definitely deserves it,” he said. “He’s the guy who should be there. I’m more than happy to spend time with the family.” .. Ideally, Alfredsson would make the all-star team next season, when the game is in Ottawa. “That would be a lot of fun, to be part of an all-star game in your hometown,” he said. “As of now, it’s not on the radar screen. That would be something that would be everybody’s dream.”