A Tale of Two Defencemen…And Then Some
Jared Cowen and Erik Karlsson. There’s going to be a lot of ink spilled in Ottawa about these two, for years to come.
In their respective ways, these two are potentially elite calibre players, and, if current projections pan out, set up Ottawa as having the premier blueline of the NHL.
But the real value of these two can be found as much in their comparative difference, as their individual attributes. It is this lack of over-lap that makes them so intriguing, when on the same roster, or line.
In Cowen we are seeing the emergence of what might be the definition of the true elite defenceman. Big, agile, fast, quick, aggressive, defensively responsible, and offensively opportunistic, but, above all else, smart and quick reacting.
It is no “gift” that has him seeing enormous ice-time, in his rookie season. It’s his play, with and without the puck.
This kid’s potential is scary high, and the fact it is hard to see only makes it all the more obvious. When a 20 year old rookie can log over thirty minutes of ice time, in a loss, and come out +1…wow. Add to this his ability to play both shut down hockey and accurately read, and create, offence…I’m in love with this kids game, absolutely head over heels in love.
Then we have Karlsson, another very young player who has a positive impact in every game he plays.
He is so obvious on every shift, you simply can’t miss him. Where Cowen comes and goes for 90% of his ice-time, virtually unnoticed (but highly impactful), Karlsson is noticed in 90% of his shifts.
Erik’s ability to create plays, and back-off the opposition is truly awesome, the fact he can do so in what is essentially his second full NHL season is amazing. Yes he entirely lacks physical intimidation, yes he can make offensive commitments his defensive play can’t cash, but at the end of the night, he is an incredibly positive force on this roster, and 29 other teams would move heaven and earth to have him (and the offers have been made).
But the real magic may be still yet to come.
If and when these two consistently line up beside each-other, with Cowen the tower of power and poise on the left, Karlsson the lightning quick jab from the right, always keeping you reacting.
Offensively Karlsson will force the play, while Cowen can provide the needed cover, and when appropriate, is no slouch at reading when to pinch. Defensively Cowen can bring the muscle and reach to own the front of the net while Karlsson has the speed and hands to harry the wingers into making rushed plays. Both of these players have speed and agility, but when combined, might soon bring to the ice the most complete set of elite skills, from defense to offense, of any duo in the NHL.
Sure, they’re not there yet, and as with any case of projection, may never get there, but if they do…domination.
And I haven’t even mentioned Rundblad (a surefire top pairing prospect)…or Wiercioch, Gryba, Borowiecki, or Blood, more than enough prospect talent to round out a full defensive corps.