Erik Karlsson talked in Pittsburgh today for the first time as a member of the Penguins.
His journey started yesterday, taking in the team’s practice facility in Cranberry Township and checking out the home team side of PPG Paints Arena. A familiar face and former teammate, Penguins assistant GM Jason Spezza, was along to help with the tour.
At a special press conference, Karlsson touched on many subjects. We’ll touch on them in quick bullet points.
- Karlsson says he didn’t have Pittsburgh as a specific target and tried to be open and give San Jose options to move him by not narrowing his demands too much. At the same time, he is happy to join a team that has had success and is in a position to try and win again, and excited that he ended up with the Penguins.
- He downplayed a so-called “strained” relationship with Brent Burns, saying the two were close personally but on the ice when a team doesn’t get results and struggles that circumstances don’t work out for the team that everyone takes a hit as far as how people on the outside judge the situation. (This topic has taken on a small narrative, seemingly emanating from the internet that Burns and Karlsson butted heads or something, which was news to a San Jose reporter who covers the team, so perhaps that will fade away as quickly as it popped up.)
- Didn’t know and was pleasantly surprised by the hills and green spaces around Western PA, calling it beautiful. (Good thing he gets this first impression in the summer before the gray fall/winter sets in..)
- Between injuries and some “other stuff”, Karlsson rediscovered a passion for hockey last season and found joy in going to the rink every day, even though it was a difficult season for the team he was on.
- As far as personal connections: Karlsson has met Rickard Rakell a few teams at Swedish national team events, he knows Alex Nylander’s father Michael from playing with him back in the day. Doesn’t know Marcus Pettersson personally yet but is friends with Lars Eller, Andreas Johnsson and Matt Nieto as past teammates.
- Didn’t realize the connection between SJ coach David Quinn and Penguin coach Mike Sullivan but thought it was cool that they more than just talked the same.
- When it comes to a defensive partner, Karlsson said, “I like playing with guys that want to reach their full potential. Someone who is always trying to improve their all-around game. It seems like it’s a really driven group here.”
Overall it was nice to hear some long-form answers from a very comfortable and confident sounding Karlsson. He must said the word excited approximately a million times (give or take a few) and sounds ready to get acclimated with his new team and teammates and get to work.