OTTAWA - It was Erik Karlsson’s time to shine.
While captain Daniel Alfredsson was the star of the NHL all-star show, the Senators defenceman also received top billing as the hockey world found out how good this 21-year-old has the potential to be.
If he wasn’t already getting consideration for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman, he certainly is now.
He probably won’t beat Zdeno Chara or Nicklas Lidstrom in voting, but at least Karlsson should be on the ballot.
“(All-star weekend was) great for him,” said teammate Jason Spezza.
Actually, it couldn’t be better.
Daniel Alfredsson's first pick and second overall in the all-star fantasy draft Thursday, Karlsson told reporters he’d “be pissed” if he wasn’t the first player taken for Sunday’s all-star game at Scotiabank Place.
That short line made a room full of voters from the Professional Hockey Writers Association stand up and take notice. You can bet they’ll be keeping a close eye on Karlsson the rest of the season.
“It’s great for Erik, the recognition he’s getting, and he’s going to continue to get,” said Spezza. “Having a stage like this gives him recognition because he is one of the best defencemen in the game.
“I did the (NHL) Media Tour at the start of the season and I told everybody I thought that Erik Karlsson was going to be an all-star every year. He’s going to be that and it’s good that people are starting to realize how good he is. He’s a key cog for our team and players like him don’t come along often.”
Karlsson said he’s just trying to get better every year.
“Experience is probably a key factor,” said Karlsson. “The more you play, the more confident you get in your game. Even though it sucked last year (missing the playoffs), we had a long summer and I had a lot of time to work on some small things with my own body.
“I wanted to make sure I was in the proper shape and I was doing the best I could. I’m never going to be a big guy, so I’m always going to have to take care of that,” added the 180-pounder.
“So far, I’m feeling really good with the way it’s going.”
Alfredsson said Karlsson is a special talent.
“He does some things better than some other defencemen,” said Alfredsson. “He’s got great hockey instincts and he’s a good athlete. He’s extremely fast in everything he does. He’s got a really good competitiveness and desire to be the best.
“That’s what drives him. When you get rewarded, and you feel like you’re playing well, it’s even more fun to work hard. With his speed, the way he reads the game and thinks the game, he’s definitely at a higher level than a lot of players.”
Alfredsson compared Karlsson to another Norris candidate — Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang.
“Since being here in Ottawa, I haven’t played with a defenceman than dynamic offensively,” said Alfredsson. “As a forward, you see him have the puck with control, and you know he’s going to take off. You just have to make sure you get open for a pass way down the rink.
“He’ll beat guys with his speed and quickness. Kris Letang is another guy who is really skilled and open things for the forwards. They play the same way.”