How Erik Karlsson Will Help Sharks Fill Goal-scoring Void This Season

[CSNBY] How Erik Karlsson will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void this season
Brian Witt

Editor's note: The Sharks open training camp later this week, looking to replace nearly 60 regular-season goals from departed forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Before camp officially begins, NBC Sports California is examining the players who will help San Jose fill that goal-scoring void. We conclude with defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

Excluding Erik Karlsson's rookie season, he scored at least twice as many goals in every other season of his career than he did last year.

That's right. Karlsson's three goals last season were a career-low, and seven-times fewer than his career-high. Granted, he was limited to 53 regular-season games due to injury, but when you consider his next-lowest total outside of his rookie year -- six goals in 2012-13 -- was tallied over just 17 games, it becomes increasingly obvious why Karlsson should be expected to find the back of the net more often in the season ahead.

Karlsson scored on 1.8 percent of his shots last season, by far the lowest shot percentage of his accomplished career. Prior to last season, he had never posted a shot percentage lower than the 4.5 percent of shots he scored on during his rookie season. Even with the extreme downturn last season, Karlsson has a career shot percentage of 6.4 percent, which suggests he was rather unlucky in his first season in San Jose.

Speaking of it being his first season, that's another reason why Karlsson can be counted on to provide more offense moving forward. He arrived via trade the day before training camp began, and it was readily apparent that it took some time to get acquainted with his new teammates and defensive partners. As soon as he did -- it took about two months -- the Sharks reeled off their best stretch of the entire year, winning 16 of 21 games from Dec. 2 to Jan. 15 -- a 133-point season-long pace. For reference, Tampa Bay posted the fourth-highest point total (128) in NHL history last year.

Karlsson injured his groin the next day, and aside from an appearance in the All-Star game -- didn't play for an entire month. He then returned for a six-game stretch in late February before sitting out the remainder of the regular season, minus the season finale. His groin reared its ugly head again the Western Conference final against St. Louis, limiting him severely at times and forcing him to miss Game 6, which proved to be the final game of the Sharks' season. 

Karlsson underwent groin surgery at the end of May, and recently said the injury "feels like it's back to normal." He has since signed a lucrative eight-year contract that will keep him in San Jose likely for the duration of his career. Some pundits were surprised he got the contract that he did, but assuming he's healthy, there's no question Karlsson is worth it.

Now entering his second season with the Sharks, some critical members from his first are nowhere to be found in the locker room. Pavelski, Nyquist and Donskoi departed in free agency, taking with them more than 20 percent of San Jose's goal total from last season, and some crucial playmakers at that. It will be a team effort to replace their production, but few if any players on the roster can inch close to Karlsson's talent level. He was already a fixture on the power play, and it would not be shocking whatsoever to see him take on an even larger role with the man-advantage, particularly with Pavelski now elsewhere.

[RELATED: Sharks name Couture captain one day before training camp]

Karlsson didn't fall off the map last season -- he was injured, plain and simple. Now healthy and with a year of familiarity under his belt, Karlsson is certainly capable of providing the Sharks with more of what they need -- goals.

Players who will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void in 2019-20

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