Whenever you compare a young defensemen two a two-time Norris Trophy winner, you’re going to garner some attention — and that’s exactly what Dallas GM Jim Nill has done by comparing rookie d-man John Klingberg to Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson.
“We think we’ve got a chance of having the next Karlsson,” Nill said, per NHL.com. “We think [Klingberg’s] heading that direction, and if he continues to improve, I think he will be that type of player.
“We’re sitting good.”
While he’s got a ways to go before reaching that level, Klingberg’s offensive potential makes the comparison somewhat legit. He enjoyed a tremendous first year in Dallas, finishing first among all rookie defensemen with 11 goals and 40 points in 65 games (the goals, assists and points were all single-season Stars records for a rookie d-man.)
The 22-year-old finished fifth in Calder voting and the Stars wasted no time locking him up long-term, signing him to a seven-year, $29.75 million deal just days after the regular season ended.
“John is a very special player, possessing a creativity and skill level that few in this league can match,” Nill said at the time. “He fits in perfectly with where our core is at age-wise and his impact on our team was felt immediately.
“We expect him to build off of his rookie season and continue his development towards becoming an elite all-around defenseman.”
It’s easy to see why Nill went the Karlsson route for his Klingberg comparison. Both are Swedes, both are talented offensive producers, both have slight frames (Karlsson is 6-foot, 180 pounds; Klingberg is 6-foot-2, 180) and both are solid puck movers out of their own end.
It also seems like Nill isn’t worried about placing lofty expectations on his players.
In an appearance on the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast this week, he said Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin reminded him of “Toews and Kane when they were 22, 23, 24 years of age.”