2021-22 Team: Örebro HK J20 (J20 Nationell)
Date of Birth: October 31, 2003
Place of Birth: Örebro, Sweden
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 165 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 59th (amongst EU skaters)
- Eliteprospects.com: 97th
- Recruit Scouting: 162nd
- Baracchini’s Top 160 Final Rankings: 123rd
- Zator’s Top 128 Final Rankings: 118th
In his first complete season in Sweden’s J20 Nationell, scouts couldn’t have asked for more from Gustav Karlsson. Not only did he lead Örebro HK in goals and points, but he was also the only one to hit the 30-goal threshold. No other player on the team reached 20, and he finished the playoffs tied in goals (4) with Oscar Sohrner and fellow 2022 draft-eligible Maximilian Kilpinen. His efforts in the J20 Nationell league led to a two-game stint in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Örebro HK, where he earned valuable experience he’ll carry over into next season.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Karlsson’s bread and butter is his ability to score goals at will. Both his wrist and slap shot are heavy and accurate, and his release is unlike anything else seen in the J20 Nationell. Multiple times throughout the year, he received passes while somewhat off-balance and still managed to execute a shot that beat goaltenders. His pass reception doesn’t need to be perfect to score, as evidenced by his 31-goal campaign. Pairing that ability with smooth hands makes him a threat whenever he has the puck. Karlsson is capable of dangling in close quarters and can beat defenders down low just as quickly as he can pull the puck to his backhand and tuck it over the goaltender’s shoulders.
Offensively speaking, his positioning is favourable among those who’ve had the chance to view him. While in the offensive zone, Karlsson tends to sneak behind defenders and find open passing lanes to receive pucks. While he’s not the quickest player out there, he’s feisty when it comes to fooling opposing players to draw some distance. When it comes to producing offense, it’s hard to find someone with the same compete level as him or the drive to push the play forward and produce scoring chances.
Unfortunately, one of his main weaknesses is his skating. As mentioned, he isn’t the fastest player on the ice, nor does he possess the explosiveness one would expect from such a goal-scoring threat. Karlsson’s pivot game is wider than most, creating a loss in speed and forcing him to take additional steps to gather his stride and catch up to the play. In transition, he tends to trail behind to search for open ice, but his lack of agility places him in no man’s land at certain times. In a situation where a turnover occurs, he has also struggled to pinch in to help defensively.
His competition level varies when comparing his work in the offensive zone to the defensive end. He’s good with his stick placement and gap control but doesn’t provide as much interest in contested plays in the corners. Karlsson isn’t the most physical player and could stand to be more engaging during loose-puck battles. At 6-foot-1, he could also add some more muscle to his frame, which would help his defensive play significantly. While he’s making strides to better himself as a two-way player, he still has a lot of work to do.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Gustav Karlsson – NHL Draft Projection
It’s unlikely Karlsson will his near name called upon in the first three rounds due to his lack of defensive game and skating. He’s still a prospect that teams can put some time into, as his offensive awareness, competitiveness, and discipline give many scouts hope that he’ll pan out with a few years of seasoning and exposure in North America. Karlsson could hear his name called as early as the fourth round but could drop way into the sixth depending on how teams evaluate him and whether certain prospects drop lower than expected.
“Karlsson is a mobile winger that always looks for opportunities to put the puck in the net. Every time he crosses the offensive blue line he looks for opening passes or ways to challenge the defense to win space and create chances. His shot, both wrist and slap, is hard and he can shot the puck without getting it perfect delivered to him, which is a big asset. His puckhandling is good and he sees the ice well to get him the extra second needed to find openings.”- Fredrik Haak, FC Hockey (from ‘Gustav Karlsson Player Report – Rogle J20 vs. Orebro J20’, FC Hockey, 05/26/22)
“Karlsson is a winger that seems to have a sixth sense of finding positions to score. He acts clever when he enters the offensive zone and often looks for opportunities to put the puck behind the net. He has good control of the puck and he often maintains control with good reach when he gets harassed and attacked by opponents. Karlsson finds areas where he could be ready to shot when he is around the net and his teammates have the puck. He is a player that is sneaky on the power play ands makes things unpredictable.”- Fredrik Haak, FC Hockey (from ‘Gustav Karlsson Player Report – Orebro J20 vs. Djurgarden J20’, FC Hockey, 01/12/22)
- Good wrist and slap shot
- Excellent offensive awareness
- Smooth hands
- High compete level
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Defensive awareness
- Skating in several avenues
- Adding muscle/physicality
The tricky thing about Karlsson’s projection is how much his skating ability will improve over the next three years. Getting more playing time in the SHL will certainly help jumpstart that process, but he’ll start the year in the J20 Nationell league for a second season. He doesn’t quite possess all the attributes required to be a top-six scorer, nor does he have the physicality and defensive awareness to play in a checking role. For now, Karlsson’s potential is a fringe-NHL player that could receive time on a second unit powerplay, provided there is some defensive help on the backend if things turn south.
Risk- Reward Analysis
Risk: 4/5, Reward: 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense: 7/10, Defense: 3/10
Karlsson was oddly used as a defenseman during Örebro Län’s attempt at promotion from Division 3 to Division 2 in the TV-Pucken league. It paid off, however, as the team successfully earned its promotion while Karlsson led the tournament in goals (6) and points (12) among all defensemen. This year, playing his natural role at centre, he recorded six points in five games to help his team win the J20 SM Bronze Medal.
Gustav Karlsson Statistics
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Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)