Sharks' Erik Karlsson says injured groin 'back to normal' after surgery

Sharks' Erik Karlsson says injured groin 'back to normal' after surgery

Groin injuries ultimately ended Erik Karlsson's first season with the Sharks, but the defenseman says he won't be affected moving forward. 

"Right now, it feels like it’s back to normal,” Karlsson told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz in a sit-down interview Thursday. " ... Honestly, it probably felt pretty good sooner than I expected, but I still took the appropriate time that the surgeons wanted for it to be healed.”

Karlsson underwent surgery groin surgery at the end of May after missing 27 of the Sharks' final 33 regular-season games. The defenseman initially injured his groin on Jan. 16, but returned to San Jose's lineup a month later and suited up for NHL All-Star Weekend at SAP Center in between. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Karlsson tweaked his groin on Feb. 24 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although Karlsson played in the Sharks' next game two days later, he played just 14:24 and would not play again until San Jose's regular-season finale on April 6.

The blue liner appeared hobbled during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Karlsson missed much of the third period in Game 4 of the Western Conference final against the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin, and played just 10:32 in Game 5. He did not play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final. 

Although his groin caused him to miss much of the stretch run, Karlsson told Kurz he does not regret holding off surgery for the offseason. 

“I most likely would have missed the whole year,” he told Kurz. “Now it feels that it’s something that shouldn’t affect anything else moving forward, and it shouldn’t be a problem that I have again.”

[RELATED: How Thornton's return could help Sharks' young forwards]

Karlsson was limited in the postseason, but tied for second on the Sharks with 16 points and led them with 14 assists. The Sharks saw enough in Karlsson's 69 regular-season and playoff games, signing him to an eight-year contract that made him the NHL's highest-paid defenseman.

With health on his side and his long-term future sorted out, Karlsson has a chance to play to his potential that prompted Sharks general manager Doug Wilson to acquire the two-time Norris Trophy winner in a blockbuster trade a year ago. 

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Erik Karlsson is arguably the best player on the Sharks. According to NHL Network, San Jose's defenseman is the 24th-best player in the league.

In counting down the best players in the current NHL, the league's network placed Karlsson in between 25th-ranked David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, and 23rd-rank Mark Giordano, the Flames' reigning Norris Trophy winner.

"We know that he can put the puck just about anywhere, he can skate himself out of trouble, he can pass himself out of trouble, he can do just about anything," NHL Network's Brian Lawton said of Karlsson. "For a defenseman in today's game that played on one leg basically last year … he did have 16 points in 19 playoff games and it wasn't quite enough, but it was pretty darn heroic if you ask me."

Karlsson totaled 45 points in 53 regular-season games with the Sharks after arriving in San Jose at the start of training camp last year. The Sharks had their best stretch of the season once he found his groove in early December, and if not for a troublesome groin injury, there's no telling how far San Jose could have gone.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner still managed to appear in the All-Star Game, and signed a lucrative eight-year extension with San Jose at the start of free agency. He tallied at least 62 points in each of the previous five seasons, and his 563 points since making his NHL debut are the most among all NHL defenseman, ahead of fellow Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (532).

[RELATED: Listen to Jumbo Joe mic'd up at a recent Sharks practice]

Karlsson will be an alternate captain in his second season with the franchise, and one would naturally expect him to benefit from having played a year in the system. He ranked sixth among NHL defensemen in points per game (0.85) last year, and with the departures San Jose suffered in free agency, it wouldn't be surprising to see that rate increase in the season ahead, particularly considering Karlsson says he feels "back to normal" after offseason surgery to address the injury that hampered him a year ago.

Assuming Karlsson stays healthy this coming season, you can expect him to be ranked even higher a year from now.

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Whether or not Joe Thornton is a national treasure is debatable, but he's certainly a regional one.

The future Hall of Famer was mic'd up at a recent Sharks' practice, and he put that quality on display. The 40-year-old didn't appear as if his age has caught up to him, as he was quite talkative and involved throughout.

Just watch for yourself:

Whether it was chasing on the forecheck or missing an empty net, the eldest member of the Sharks looked anything but. Enjoying his first healthy offseason in recent memory, Thornton's energy is certainly palpable, and that bodes well for the Sharks as they attempt to get back to the playoffs for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.

Thornton signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the month to return to the Sharks for his 15th season in San Jose. He'll be one of four alternate captains on the team, after Logan Couture was named the 10th full-time captain in franchise history, taking over for the departed Joe Pavelski.

With Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist leaving in free agency during the offseason, the Sharks are counting on several prospects to take a step forward this coming season -- and on Thornton to help them succeed at the NHL level. While line pairings are still in flux, it wouldn't be shocking whatsoever to see Thornton paired with one of those prospects on his wing.

[RELATED: Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as season nears]

Based on Thornton's mic'd up session, he'll be talking that prospects' ear off all game long.