With the expansion draft looming, there is a relatively tough decision that the Columbus Blue Jackets will have to face: Who will they protect? With David Clarkson not counting towards the seven forwards that Columbus has to protect, that leaves four spots. Two of the four spots will very likely be occupied by Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson.
Let’s take a look at one of the forwards who could make a case for one of the final two spots: William Karlsson.
Columbus Blue Jackets Expose or Protect: William Karlsson
Karlsson, affectionately referred to as “Wild Bill” has turned himself into a very solid depth forward for Columbus over the last two seasons. Primarily playing on the third and fourth lines, Karlsson has proven his worth as a decent point-producer, and a solid defensive forward, especially on the penalty kill.
It is because of his ability on the penalty kill that it makes it such a tough choice to expose him for selection. It is safe to say that if the Vegas Golden Knights see Karlsson available in what is going to be a week pool of centers, they’re likely going to pick him. So should the Blue Jackets part ways with Wild Bill? The answer isn’t straightforward, but he will likely be exposed.
The last two spots are going to be tough to decide on when you have to pick between Karlsson, Josh Anderson, Boone Jenner, Lukas Sedlak, and Matt Calvert. Out of the five, however, Karlsson is ultimately one that can be replaced with depth from the prospect pool currently in place.
Why Vegas Would Pick Karlsson
While William Karlsson isn’t known for his offensive ability, he is a solid defensive center. Karlsson regularly plays on the penalty kill for the Blue Jackets. Under a defensive-minded coach like Tortorella, that says a lot.
His solid work ethic in every zone, defensive abilities, and good hockey IQ would make him a great pick for an expansion franchise. While Vegas seems to think they want to compete, their top goal in their first season should be to keep as many pucks out of their net as possible. Karlsson would only help to achieve this goal by adding disciplined play and intelligent defense at the center position.
This won’t just be a benefit for the Golden Knights, but for Karlsson as well. And for a forward who only averaged 13:23 of ice time in 2016-17, this would mean more playing time. With how weak the pool of centerman is looking, Karlsson could easily see that number jump by a few minutes with the expansion Golden Knights.
Replacements for Karlsson
While there are a few prospects that could replace Karlsson in the bottom six from Cleveland, like T.J. Tynan, Alex Broadhurst, or Paul Bittner, there is an even better option. Last years third overall pick, Pierre-Luc Dubois can step in nicely. While he has had a tough year, relative to expectations, it is looking likely that he will make the team out of training camp.
With Dubois pushing for a roster spot, this makes Karlsson expendable in the upcoming expansion draft. The chances that the Golden Knights pass up a center as defensively solid as Karlsson is pretty slim, to say the least. But looking at the optimistic side of it, that means that the youth will continue to have opportunities in the center of the ice for Columbus, and that has worked well since John Tortorella came to town.
Verdict: Expose to selection