2009-10: Erik Karlsson skated for Frolunda’s U18 and U16 teams in Sweden and competed for Goteborg 1 in the TV-Pucken tournament for high school age players. He scored 1 goal with 3 assists for Frolunda U18 in four games in Elit play and in nine games in Allsvenskan U18 play he had 1 goal and 2 penalty minutes. Karlsson appeared in one playoff game for Frolunda U18, which won a bronze medal. In eight U16 games he scored 3 goals with 3 assists and had 8 penalty minutes. In 8 games in the TV-Pucken tournament he had 3 goals and 3 assists. Gotborg 1 finished third in the tournament.
2010-11: Karlson split the season between Frolunda’s U20 and U18 team and skated for Sweden’s U17 team in five international contests. In 29 games in the SuperElit U20 league he had 4 goals with 9 assists and had 41 penalty minutes. He skated in seven playoff games for Frolunda, which won the U20 championship, and had 1 goal with 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes. In 26 games for the Frolunda U18 squad he scored 20 goals with 22 assists and had 12 penalty minutes. He played four U18 playoff games and scored 1 goal with 1 assist.
2011-12: Karlson appeared in 47 games with Frolunda’s U20 team and represented Sweden in three tournaments – the 2011 U19 World Junior A Challenge, the 2011 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and 2012 U18 World Junior Championship. Karlson scored 14 goals with 19 assists, was minus-4 and was second on the team with 70 penalty minutes. In the two playoff games versus Linkopings he was minus-1 and had no points. Karlsson had 1 goal and 6 penalty minutes in four games at the World Jr A Challenge. Playing for Sweden’s U18 team he had 1 assist in two games at the Ivan Hlinka event and scored 1 goal with 2 assists and was plus-2 as Sweden reached the silver medal game of the U18 WJC. Karlsson was ranked 14th amongst European skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the NHL Draft and was selected by Carolina in the fourth round (99th overall).
2012-13: Karlsson made his debut in Sweden’s Elitserien as an 18-year-old, playing five games for Frolunda and also played two games with Karlskrona in Allsvenskan in addition to skating for the Frolunda U20 team. He played a pair of games in December and then returning to Frolunda for three more games at the end of January, finishing with no points or penalty minutes and averaging four minutes of ice time. He had 1 assist and was minus-4 in four games with Karlskrona. Frolunda’s U20 team was the top team in Sweden in regular season play. Karlsson scored 10 goals with 25 assists and was plus-14 with 48 penalty minutes in 40 games. Frolunda advanced to the SuperElit U20 playoff semifinals and finished fourth after a 3-1 loss to Farjestads in the bronze medal game. Karlsson scored 1 goal with 5 assists and was plus-1 in six playoff games.
2013-14: Karlsson skated in 41 games for Frolunda as an SHL rookie and played for the club’s U20 team. He was a member of the silver medal-winning Sweden squad at the 2014 World Juniors. In 41 regular season games for Frolunda he scored 5 goals with 1 assist and was plus-6 with 6 penalty minutes; averaging 8:39 minutes of ice time. Frolunda finished second before being upset by Linkopings in a seven-game first-round series. Karlsson scored 1 goal in six playoff games. Playing for the Frolunda U20 team he scored 5 goals with 10 assists in nine games and was plus-4 with 2 penalty minutes. He had 3 assists and was plus-1 with 6 penalty minutes in seven games at the WJC. Sweden lost 3-2 in overtime to Finland in the gold medal game. Karlsson signed a three-year entry-level contract with Carolina in May 2014
2014-15: Karlsson returned to Sweden to skate for Frolunda. Seeing limited ice time while appearing in 53 of 55 regular season games for the second-place Indians, he scored 1 goal with 2 assists and was -7 with 6 penalty minutes. Frolunda defeated Lulea in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Vaxjo in the semifinals. Karlsson played in seven playoff games, averaging five minutes of ice time with no points, 2 penalty minutes and a -1 plus/minus.
Karlsson is a speedy and tenacious forechecker who played in the Swedish Hockey League the past two seasons. Despite being just 6-foot-0 and 170 pounds, Karlsson should be able to handle bigger players due to his professional experience, and his speed and instincts should be an asset on North America’s smaller rinks.
Karlsson will spend 2015-16 with the AHL’s Checkers, likely in a third-line energy role with a chance to see some time on a scoring line. His upside is similar for the NHL: he’s unlikely to develop into a big scorer, but his speed coupled with his surprising physicality give him a chance to be a poor man’s Carl Hagelin.