Melker Karlsson is the ideal fourth line forward in the NHL today.
With enforcers a dying breed and speed and skill the name of the game, Melker Karlsson is as valuable of a fourth line forward as you will find.
The simplest way to compliment Melker Karlsson's game is thus: bad things rarely happen when he is on the ice.
Melkman Making Major Impact
Sure, his time on ice doesn't jump off the page, just 12:23 per game, but Karlsson's impact in those minutes is monumental. First and foremost, 1:35 of his ice time comes on the penalty kill as the second most-used forward on the team while shorthanded (the Sharks are a solid 11th in the league in penalty killing at 82.7%). Secondly, he can produce offense no matter who he plays with. His versatility allows him to have some chemistry on the top line at times with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but most of his damage this season has been on the fourth line. While his offensive statistics aren't eye popping, six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 42 games is a solid 25-26 point pace over a whole season.
Karlsson's points per 60 minutes at even strength is a respectable 1.42 this season, 10th on the team. For reference points, Kings star Marian Gaborik and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog are also right at 1.42 and 1.43 points per 60. Karlsson's ability to chip in offense is well balanced as he isn't a predictable shooter nor passer. Over his three-year NHL career Karlsson has 29 goals and 27 assists. Certainly he doesn't face the toughest competition when playing regularly on the fourth line, but again he doesn't ever look out of place when he jumps up in the lineup.
When it comes to team goals-for per 60 minutes, the Sharks score 2.52 goals when Karlsson is on the ice. That is good enough for fifth among the thirteen Sharks forwards who have skated 200 or more minutes this season. That number is basically identical to Joe Pavelski's 2.53 goals-for. Again, different quality of compeitition, but an example of Melker's ability to make good things happen. And as mentioned at the start of this article, bad things (goals against) rarely happen with Karlsson on the ice. His goals against per 60 minutes is lowest of all Sharks forwards at 1.40, which means his overall goals-for percentage of 64.3% leads the team up front. For you less fancy stats people, Karlsson currently has the best plus/minus rating of all Sharks forwards this season at plus-8.
With a 104.1 PDO, perhaps Karlsson has simply been a bit lucky this season, but his possession numbers are right around 50% or better (52% Fenwick-for percentage). If you watch the Sharks closely, it is not surprising to see Karlsson have such strong underlying numbers. He is reliable in all three zones, rarely, if ever cheats offensively. With a high hockey IQ, he makes all the right plays, forechecks hard, backchecks hard and despite being thin at 6'0" 180, he is fearless at driving the net and often wins 50-50 battles against bigger, stronger players.
The 26-year-old Swede will never wow the pundits with crazy offensive numbers, but Karlsson is as solid as they come and deserves far more praise than he has gotten thus far this season.