Swedish center William Karlsson doesn't get a great deal of attention, but even if he doesn't have the same kind of skill level and NHL upside as Red Wings 2010 second-rounder Calle Järnkrok from last season, Karlsson has had a similar rise up draft boards with a strong performance in 2010-11.
A standout with Västerås of the J20 (under-20) junior division and with the senior Allsvenskan club after getting called up, Karlsson is only of average size (6-0, 185) but is a good skater with excellent hockey sense and the hands to get things done offensively. He and the small, but dangerous winger Gustav Björklund formed a pretty dangerous duo there on the Västerås jr. club and then carried it over to the World Under-18 Championships. Björklund tied Mika Zibanejad in scoring for Team Sweden with eight points, while Karlsson finished with a solid two goals, five points in six games to win the silver medal.
Karlsson posted 30 goals and 54 points in 38 junior games and then got a chance to skate with the second division pro team, playing in 14 contests and going 1-3-4 in that span. (Björklund joined him at the same time on the pro club, going 1-2-3).
Karlsson doesn't jump out at you when you watch him play, but he's got shifty moves and can really see the ice and anticipate the play as it unfolds. Plays with a real high compete level and energy; goes to the net and is able to handle the puck well in traffic. Can score and set up the play.
Needs to get a lot stronger, but B2011DW sees Karlsson as a guy who is a strong candidate for an off-the-board early selection at the draft because his developmental curve is steep, and he's really come on this season. An NHL team with a strong European presence (ahem, Detroit ahem) seems like a logical landing spot for a guy like this.
Karlsson is underrated, unappreciated by hockey fans in North America (though we suspect that Swedes and the few draftniks who follow European hockey closely) but is someone worth paying attention to. He's been productive and has upside. This kid isn't getting much ink now, but could generate a good buzz going forward because he has so many the attributes teams are looking for.
Red Line Report has been on Karlsson's case for much of the season, and had a strong write-up on him back in February.