August 28, 2021 4 min read

William Karlsson (born Lars William Karlsson) is a 28-year-old professional hockey player for the National Hockey League. He currently plays for the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas, and has also played for Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets in his career.

Karlsson was born in January 1993 and originates from Marsta, Sweden. Though his childhood dream was to play AIK football, he ended up entering a different sport entirely – ice hockey.  As a teen and young adult, he played for Vasteras, a second division Swedish team.  Karlsson also represented Sweden in the IIHF World Junior Championships, winning a gold medal in 2012 and a silver medal in 2013.  He went on to win Rookie of the Year award in 2013 in the Swedish Hockey League at age 21.

But the highlights of William Karlsson’s career would not come until he at long last joined the National Hockey League in the US.  He had been drafted by Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 Entry Draft, and finally played his first game in the NHL in October 2014.  A couple nights later, he scored not only his first NHL goal, but two of them, in a game where Anaheim faced the Buffalo Sabres.

william karlsson

William Karlsson saw ice time in a total of 17 games that season for Anaheim, though he was frequently shuffled down to the AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, before eventually being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in March 2015. In his very first game with CBJ, he had an assist, followed by his first goal with them just a few nights later.

Karlsson did not have very remarkable seasons to come with the Columbus Blue Jackets, resulting in him being left “unprotected” in 2017 during the NHL expansion draft that would form the first professional sports team in Las Vegas, the Vegas Golden Knights.  In that draft, the Golden Knights selected Karlsson and, though it might not have felt wonderful to him at the time, that became the beginning of a new and very important chapter in his NHL career.

William Karlsson was matched with 2 other forwards who had come from the Florida Panthers – Jonathan Marchessaultand Reilly Smith.   Together, they became one of the most productive top lines in the NHL.  All 3 players put up career-high numbers during the inaugural season. 

Karlsson scored his first NHL hat trick in December that first season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and made team history by recording the first hat trick of the franchise.   He scored another hat trick against the Calgary Flames in March of 2018.  William Karlsson ended the regular season with 43 goals, placing him third highest in NHL scoring behind Ovechkin (49) and Laine (44).  Those 43 goals also locked him into the record for most goals scored by a player on an expansion team.

In 2018, William Karlsson was also nominated for and ultimately became the recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. This award is given to a player who is recognized for his “gentlemanly conduct, superior sportsmanship and high standard of play.”  Karlsson was the first player since Wayne Gretzky to win an end-of-season award in their team’s inaugural season.   William Karlsson also received the 2017-2018 Guldpucken award, which goes to the top Swedish hockey player each year.

william karlsson

Karlsson’s performance in the VGK inaugural season earned him a one-year contract extension valued at $5.25 million.  Though he was hoping for a more long term deal, he used the extension as ammunition to put up another fantastic season, proving that his insanely good season wasn’t a fluke.

After putting up 24 goals and 32 assists in the second season, the Vegas Golden Knights offered William Karlsson a stellar deal – an eight-year $47.2 million contract, which equates to roughly $5.9 million a year, which he happily signed.  He is now entering season 3 of that agreement, which lasts through the 2026-2027 season.

On a personal front, William Karlsson is engaged to Emily Ferguson, who is well-known in the US for being a former contestant on the TV reality show “The Bachelor.”  The couple became engaged in 2020 and adopted a dog who was a survivor of the Korean dog meat trade, who they fondly call Obi, short for Obi-Wan Karlsson.   William, Emily and Obi all have a very strong and popular social media presence.  William is nicknamed “Wild Bill,” though even Karlsson himself doesn’t remember where the moniker came from; only that it was assigned to him in his first season with Anaheim and just “caught on.”  Karlsson is most definitely a fan favorite on the Vegas Golden Knights team, where he is known for his amazing hockey hair or “flow” as everyone calls it.

William Karlsson has been an incredibly valuable member of the VGK team since its inception and that fateful day he was chosen after his old team chose not to protect him from the expansion draft.  Fans and teammates alike hope that Karlsson sees a very long career and bright future ahead with the Vegas Golden Knights.

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