The first time Erik Karlsson practiced with the San Jose Sharks, he skated with Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski in a 3-on-3 scrimmage Sept. 19.
The final play: Karlsson raced ahead, dug out a puck down low and passed across the low slot for Burns. Goal. Smile. Fist bump.
It was a preview of the season, not to mention the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game, a 3-on-3 tournament at SAP Center on Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), where Karlsson will represent the Sharks on home ice with Burns and Pavelski.
Karlsson went through an adjustment period after the Ottawa Senators traded him Sept. 13. But since then, the two-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman has played at an elite level, developed chemistry with his new teammates and made a good team better.
“He’s everything we thought he would be, not only as a player but as a person,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Watched him a lot and appreciated his game from a distance. Seeing it even closer up, it’s special.”
Karlsson has 41 points (three goals, 38 assists) in 45 games, fifth among NHL defenseman, 11 behind the leader, Burns (52 points; nine goals, 43 assists). Since Dec. 2, he has 26 points (one goal, 25 assists) in 18 games, most among NHL defenseman, one ahead of Burns, while playing a shutdown role at times, too.