Linus Karlsson was a cut above at Vancouver Canucks Development Camp that wrapped up on Thursday afternoon. He didn’t necessarily appear completely motivated during the routine drills portion of the week, but he took another step to show off his skills during the full scrimmage.
It should come as no surprise. This isn’t a kid out of college or wrapping up major juniors, Karlsson played with the big boys back home in the top Swedish Hockey League last season and led Skellefteå AIK in goals (26) and ranked second in overall team scoring with 46 points. He won SHL Rookie of the Year honours while finishing 9th in overall league scoring and first among first year players.
“I like his game, he’s not the fastest guy out there but I’ve liked him for three or four years, he’s strong on the puck, he’s smart, he’s shifty, and he stays in the play,” said Vancouver Canucks player develop coach Mikael Samuelsson, “that’s how he scored a couple of goals and created a couple of chances here. The second effort is right there for Linus.”
Fair to say former Canucks winger Samuelsson is qualified to comment. Among his many accolades, he’s one of just thirty members of what’s called the Triple Gold Club in international hockey. A rare group of players who have all won a World Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and a Stanley Cup.
In his Vancouver Canucks player development role, he joins fellow Swedes and soon-to-be Hockey Hall of Famers Daniel and Henrik Sedin. All of them won Olympic Gold together in 2006.
“I think it definitely helps (our Swedish players), I think at the beginning of your career it helps if you can actually speak your language a little bit before you get into the group, I think it helps,” Samuelsson said.
The other young countryman to watch was 2022 1st-round, 15th-overall draft choice Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who could best be described as solid from start to finish of Development Camp.
“I know he’s a goal scorer, I know he has things to improve as well,” Samuelsson said, “I should say natural goal scorer because I’m sure he’s worked hard for that too. I think this week was really important for him and in this game today he sees that it’s a faster game, you’ve gotta think faster, and as the game went on he got into the groove and held on to the puck and scored a nice goal in the end. That’s him right there.”
Lekkerimaki is slated to drop down to the second tier HockeyAllsvenskan pro league in Sweden next season to maximize ice time and special teams opportunities. Karlsson will be at Vancouver Canucks camp trying his hardest to make the big club while initially being pencilled in for the AHL.