Since he was drafted in 2015, it seems like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s development has been on fast forward.
He put up 30 points in 39 games as a freshman at Boston University, then followed that up with 33 points in 39 games as a sophomore. While his point totals may not have blown everyone away, it was the breathless praise uttered by those that saw him play at BU regularly that got Bruins fans excited.
His passing was excellent. He played a two-way game. His hockey sense was off the charts. There were even a handful of bold souls (coughcough Matt Grzelcyk) who compared him to a young Patrice Bergeron.
To put it simply, there’s a reason the Bruins were willing to burn a year of his entry-level contract to get him to sign after two seasons of NCAA hockey: he’s good.
From Providence Coach Jay Leach, in a MassLive article by Conor Ryan:
“He has an immense ability...I guess the way I’d describe it, his skill level does set him apart from a lot of people. I think he’d say it and we’ve talked at length about his year last year and where he had to come from and where he has to get to. He learned the pro game last year.”
In his first full professional season, Forsbacka Karlsson was as-advertised: not a guy who was going to pile up eye-popping point totals, but a guy who was solid, dependable and just plain good in all three zones.
Forsbacka Karlsson played big minutes for the P-Bruins last season, mostly on one of the top two lines. He held his own on special teams as well.
As one may have expected, Forsbacka Karlsson slowed down a bit as his first AHL season wore on, and he was sidelined with a concussion in February.
He reported to camp ready to go this summer, and has done pretty well in the preseason. The question for Forsbacka Karlsson going forward is whether or not he’ll do enough to earn an NHL roster spot next week.
The most likely landing spot for Forsbacka Karlsson in the Bruins’ current lineup would be as third-line center (or wing, if Bruce Cassidy wanted to try to force him outside). The top two lines are pretty well set, and Forsbacka Karlsson’s game really isn’t suited for the fourth line.
That leaves a small window of opportunity for the Swedish kid, and he isn’t the only one with eyes on that third line: a guy like Trent Frederic probably has his eyes on it as well, while Peter Cehlarik would love to take a wing and have someone else slide to center.
Regardless, the future appears pretty bright for Forsbacka Karlsson. If he doesn’t find space on the Bruins’ roster by the end of October, he’ll be the first one up in the event of an injury or a slump. As contracts expire and players move in and out, a roster spot should become more of a certainty.
Thus far, he’s proven that the Bruins weren’t out of line in burning a year of his contract to get him to turn pro.
This season, he has a chance to make them look like the smartest people in the room.
The rankings so far:
10. Jeremy Swayman
9. Ryan Fitzgerald
8. Trent Frederic
7. Peter Cehlarik
6. Jeremy Lauzon
5. Jakub Zboril
4. Urho Vaakanainen
3. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson