There were many reasons why Erik Karlsson’s 2011-12 was amazing, but winning a Norris Trophy as a 22-year-old probably takes the cake.
Really, Karlsson’s beyond-his-years production might be a microcosm of an Ottawa Senators system that is rife with intriguing young talent.
Hockey’s Future ranked them third overall in the NHL, raving about young forwards such as Mika Zibanejad (pictured) and Jakob Silfverberg in particular.
Zibanejad was Ottawa’s early first-rounder in 2011, wowing the Senators brass with his mixture of offensive skills and encouraging nastiness. The Swede played nine games at the NHL level and prospered at the World Junior Championships, so his time just might come next season.
Another noteworthy guy seemingly on the verge of everyday NHL work is goalie Robin Lehner. With Ben Bishop signed and Craig Anderson implanted at No. 1, Lehner likely needs to wait, though.
(Although an injury could change things, as that’s what gave him a brief chance last season.)
Karlsson is the headliner among young defensemen, but Jared Cowen recently graduated to the NHL level as well. Cowen’s size and intensity represents a very different set of assets to Karlsson’s scoring.
Whether it’s next season or one after, the Senators’ prospects might represent the franchise’s best chance to keep the momentum going.