U nless you’re a big fan of Northeastern University hockey or you have looked at this year’s development camp roster more than once, Ludwig Karlsson is probably not a name that you are going to know – at least not yet.
Four years ago, Ludwig Karlsson left Sweden to play hockey in the United States. This is a far cry from the traditional route to the NHL that the other young Swedes at Nashville’s development camp have taken. Karlsson is the only undrafted Swede in the dressing room, but he likes the path he has taken – a path which included a stint in the USHL, followed by two years at Northeastern University. He will play a third year at Northeastern in the fall unless something like an entry-level deal falls into his lap.
Newly-inked Predator and fellow countryman Viktor Stalberg took a similar road to the NHL and played three years with the University of Vermont. Detroit’s equally successful Gustav Nyquist played three years with the University of Maine where he was also twice nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. Karlsson likes the comparison to these players, saying, “Those are the guys I am following the path of.”
Instead of waiting and hoping to be scouted by an NHL team while on the ice in Sweden, Karlsson believes that playing in the United States gives him more time to develop.
“I feel like when I’m over here, it’s easier to get used to the culture and easier to get seen,” Karlsson said – and he’s getting seen.
Sometimes late round draft picks get lost in the shuffle at camp and you won’t know where one player came from or what year he was drafted. But a little known fact to the casual hockey fan is that Ludwig Karlsson is not currently in the Predators system. Along with Sebastian Geoffrion and Joe Pendenza, this year he was a camp invitee. However, this is not Karlsson’s first development camp rodeo. Last year he landed on Anaheim’s equally Swede-loving prospect radar and was invited to Ducks camp. Though it did prepare him for this year in some aspects, Karlsson said that the two camps are pretty different.
“We were on the ice more over there. We scrimmaged more in Anaheim,” said the 22 year old. In Nashville, the players are divided into three groups and practice for about an hour and a half on the ice for three out of the five days and scrimmage on the last day. “This is more [about] skill.” That is certainly the case when the majority of the practices include one-on-one or pairs coaching with intense passing, skating and shooting drills.
Even though it is the first time on the ice with most of the players at camp, he has a pretty strong Nashville connection in former Northeastern teammate and current Predators prospect Anthony Bitetto.
“It’s pretty nice to have someone to talk to before coming here to get a feeling of how it is,” Karlsson said. “He’s pretty experienced with all of this. It’s nice having him here.”
Since Bitetto is practically the only person in Nashville right now who knows much about Karlsson, the Stockholm native described himself as a “skilled forward that likes to have the puck a lot and…contribute a lot on the offense.” He hopes that he will be able to show off some of those offensive talents in the camp scrimmage this Saturday. His goal production reflects his autobiographical statement as he led Northeastern in points in 2011-2012. Last season, he fell short in the scoring rankings due to a fluke wrist injury that resulted in surgery in February and put him out for the rest of the season.
“It was a struggle, but I learned a lot from that too,” he said.
However, his days of injury holding him back are behind him and he has a positive attitude going into the rest of the week.
“I’m trying to take in everything and learn how it is on the next level,” he said.
Not only is he learning about the next level, but he is being seen by some pretty important people and getting some good experience to go on his hockey resume as well. Obviously, his number one goal this week, not being in the Predators system, is “to leave the best impression as possible.”
Karlsson is grateful for the experience and said that he’s “glad to be here and I’m going to take in every minute of it and learn and do my best.”
Photo: Sarah Fuqua