‘I’m a different player now’: Linus Karlsson Continues Taking Steps Towards NHL

It was another strong year in North America for Linus Karlsson and with it comes a one-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

The 24-year-old forward scored 23 goals and added 37 assists to be a point-per-game player in his 60 AHL games. He also made his NHL debut, followed by three more regular season games with the Canucks and a pair of appearances during the playoff run.

Karlsson has made significant changes to his play style since joining the Abbotsford Canucks before the 2022-23 season. He gives a lot of credit to the Abby coaching staff and the Sedin twins for their work on improving his play around the net and making him tougher in the corners.

“It was a big difference, and I am a different player now,” reminisced Karlsson about his two seasons of pro hockey in North America. “I was always a half-wall player in Sweden and now I’m a net-front guy and I like it more. I like to be there, and I want to be there because that’s where most goals are from. I also had to take big steps on the walls and learn to be better at protecting pucks. And defensively, you’ve got to win battles and protect the net because it’s tighter here.”

The substantial difference that Karlsson has seen is how coaches work with him in Abbotsford is that they are preparing him to be an NHL player. In years past, his strengths were leaned on for production and wins but since he’s joined the Abbotsford Canucks, the focus has been on improving the skills that will give him success at the NHL level.

“The Sedins and Jeff Ulmer have been really helpful for me. I’m always trying to listen to them and do my best so that I can be a full-time player in the NHL. That’s what I want and that’s why I’m working hard to take a step this summer. The main goal is to be stronger overall but also focus on my first three strides — that is what I’m working on right now,” Karlsson said.

The development over his two years in the AHL helped him make his debut at the NHL level, and it was a dream come true for the 6’1” Swede.

“That first lap was amazing, I was trying to take it in because it is something I’ve dreamed about. It was really cool, and something I'm going to remember forever. I was really excited to get that opportunity and it helped me a lot during the season too. To get that first game made me feel like I am close.”

The proximity of Abbotsford to Vancouver helped keep Karlsson motivated. Knowing that management is just a one-hour drive away keeps the players in Abbotsford hungry for what they can achieve with a strong season and commitment to playing Canucks Hockey.

“I like everything about the organization; all the staff, the atmosphere at the rink, the fans, and the city,” said Karlsson. “And in Abbotsford, everyone wants to help you get to the NHL. The organization has done a great job developing me and my game in my two years. So, I'm really excited to come back for my third year now and improve even more to show them how badly I want to be a full-time NHLer.”

Those NHL games opened Karlsson’s eyes to what he must accomplish this summer. He did not waste any time getting back on the ice and is focused on improving his foot speed. With added strength and agility, Karlsson can then use his good shot and strong hands around the crease to make an impact at the NHL level.

His few weeks in the NHL were beneficial for him to develop a relationship with Rick Tocchet and the rest of the Canucks’ coaching staff.

“The coaching staff in Vancouver is so good. I learned so much there and what I liked was how they just wanted to win so badly. The winning mentality was something I liked from the coaches, and they are all winners. You can see it from how they teach the small details. It was great to see how hard everyone works and that is somewhere I really want to be.”

This summer presents an opportunity for Karlsson to hone his craft and continue to build towards achieving his goal of becoming a full-time NHL player. He wants to make an impact at Canucks training camp and show that he can be a versatile player who can contribute on both special teams' units and be trusted in his own zone at even strength.

Karlsson is spending his summer back in Sweden. Aside from working out and skating, he has been around his family a ton and is enjoying the time he gets to spend with them after being away for most of the year.

As for his Canucks family, Karlsson is spending a lot of time with Nils Höglander. The two don't live very far away from each other and spend some of their downtime fishing. They are joined by Nils Åman from time to time when he comes to visit.

After a pair of strong developmental seasons in the AHL, Karlsson is ready to take on the next step and try to turn his cup of coffee in the NHL into a full season at the highest level.