Erik Karlsson or Victor Hedman: Who Would you Prefer?

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(source: photoshelter.com)

With your Ottawa Senators playing the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, two of the games young premier Swedish defencemen showcased their skills with young Erik Karlsson  suiting up for the Sens and Victor Hedman  manning the blueline for the Bolts. With both players bringing different talents to the dance, I always wondered which player would I prefer to have on my team. So let’s take a look at these two kids and see how they match-up.

Erik Karlsson is a offense-minded defenceman that has the ability to put up a lot of points. To say Karlsson’s game is built on offense would not be a false statement. With superior skating abilities and quick acceleration, Karlsson has the skills to rush the puck end to end whenever he so chooses. With a canon from the point, Karlsson also has an accurate wrister in his tool belt with the uncanny ability to get his shot through to the net. Karlsson also has a great outlet pass and the patience to wait for plays to happen. However, Karlsson’s greatest asset is the ton of confidence he has in himself and his abilities to try and make plays happen from anywhere on the ice at any point in the game.

However, Karlsson’s defensive game is not on par with his offensive game, but he is improving and is on his way to becoming an all-around defenceman. Now a regular on Ottawa’s penalty kill unit, Karlsson has earned the coaches trust and is now put in defensively responsible situations with the game on the line. Only his second year in the league, Karlsson has become the number one defenceman in Ottawa playing the most minutes every night and is the go-to guy from the back-end.

Victor Hedman on the other hand is an all-around defenceman with great size and skating ability. With great defensive instincts and an offensive touch, Hedman has the potential to be a superstar in the league. With a decent shot from the point, Hedman is known more at this point in his career for his defensive skills than for his point production.

Drafted second overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Hedman came into the league with a lot of hype and pressure. With expectations that would be hard for anyone to live up to, Hedman has been able to find his game and become a top pairing defenceman for Tampa. Playing big minutes on the back-end, Hedman plays in all situations and usually goes up against the opposition’s best lines.

Here is the tale of the tape between these two:

Victor Hedman                           Erik Karlsson

6’6”                                       5’11”

230lbs                                  175lbs

20 yrs old                             20 yrs old

Shoots Left                           Shoots Right

Drafted 2009                         Drafted 2008

1st round – 2nd overall        1st round – 15th overall

To compare these two is a little hard as they play two completely different games. Karlsson will never be confused with a defensive minded defenceman such as Chris Phillips, but his offensive talents make him extremely valuable from the backend. On the other hand, Hedman will never be compared to Mike Green and is counted more on for shutting down opponents best players.

Both players have different physical attributes and hockey skills. Karlsson uses his speed and shiftiness to escape forecheckers and push the puck up the ice. As an offence generator, Karlsson has an outside chance of notching 50 points this year in only his second season in the league. To put it in perspective, Karlsson’s 45 points this season equals Hedman’s two year point total in the league where he only has a combined total of 45 points.

However, where Hedman is no match for Karlsson offensively, Karlsson is no match for Hedman in the defensive zone. Hedman is a career minus 5 where as Karlsson is a career minus 33. Sens fans will say that both Karlsson and Hedman had decent plus/minuses in their rookie campaigns as they were minus 5 and minus 3 respectively. And that the whole reason for Karlsson’s inflated career plus/minus is due to the poor play of Ottawa this year. However, Hedman can be argued to have had similar quality of teammates as Karlsson as both their teams are middle of the pack teams with similar calibre rosters. So its fair to say that Hedman has the upper hand in the defensive zone.

So who would I prefer on my team manning the blueline?

At this point in their young careers, I believe Karlsson  has more potential then Hedman. The simple reason for this preference is that you can’t teach offence. The skills and hockey sense Karlsson has cannot be taught. One can always learn how to play defensively, but its hard to teach someone where to be on the ice when plays develop in the offensive zone. Karlsson seems able to put up 40 to 50 points a season as he continues to gain confidence in his game. Hedman may never break 40 points in a season, but may turn into the better defenceman with his solid all-around play. 

The other reason why I prefer Karlsson over Hedman at the present moment is that Karlsson uses all his tools where Hedman does not. Blessed with speed and shiftiness, Karlsson uses these talents to move the puck and put points up on the board. Hedman on the other hand, is 6’6″ and 230lbs, but plays like a 5’10”, 170lbs player. Not overly physical, Hedman fails to utilize his size to dominate games. Players of his size always need more time to grow into their bodies, but Hedman came into the league at his current size and may never learn how to fully use his greatest asset.

So if you were building a team, who would you prefer, Karlsson or Hedman?

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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