Erik Karlsson is everything for the Senators. He drives their offence, he is their best defensive defenceman and he is on the ice for almost half the game. Whether he is named the captain of the team are not, he is clearly the face of the club.
Karlsson once again led the team in scoring, finishing with 74 points on the season and in doing so becoming the fifth defenceman in NHL history to score 74 or more points twice by age 23. He was dominant in helping the Senators control play with him on the ice although he was on the ice for a lot more goals against than goals scored due to the play of his teammates. That is not to say Karlsson can't be better but after some early season struggles he was generally dominant in most games.
So what now for the Senators star? The team's blueline is exactly the same as last year and Karlsson will likely be required to play just as much as he did last year. On the other hand, he is another year removed from his Achilles injury and his personal problems also appear to be in the past. Is Karlsson capable of filling up enough holes on the defence to carry the team to respectability? He has done it before, but it won't be easy.
He is expected to play most of the season with Marc Methot and the two have done quite well together, especially in the 2013 season before Karlsson's injury. He also spent quite a bit of time with Jared Cowen last season and that is another pairing that we can expect to see this year. In either case, Karlsson will likely be mostly responsible for breaking out of the defensive zone and relieve the pressure. That is nothing new and although the opposition will be focusing on Karlsson, it hasn't stopped him from being a difference maker in the past.
Karlsson is an elite player that can do things no one else in the league can. He is the only bona fide superstar on Ottawa and he is going to be need to near his best for the team to compete for a playoff spot. Världens bästa Karlsson was the världens bästa hockey player before he got injured in 2013. Is this the year he returns to being in Hart Trophy candidate form?