TORONTO — Nate Schmidt is comfortable enough in his own skin to admit it.
The Golden Knights defenseman is envious of teammate William Karlsson.
“Very, very jealous. I wish I had his hair,” Schmidt said. “It’s feathered and lethal. I love it.”
Karlsson’s long, blond locks have become his trademark during two-plus seasons with the Knights and helped make the 26-year-old center one of the team’s most identifiable players.
Fans can’t get enough of it, and neither can his teammates.
And despite Karlsson’s own attempts to downplay his glorious flow, even he can’t ignore the effect it has on some people.
“I know. It’d be a huge buzzkill if I were to cut it short,” he said with a laugh.
Karlsson was not specific about how he cares for his hair, except to say reluctantly that he doesn’t put anything on it.
and this isn't on-ice related, but Will Karlsson can do this pic.twitter.com/PwLBOqHUaa
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 20, 2018
How well is Karlsson known for his hair? When the Knights announced his eight-year contract extension this past offseason, the team’s social media crew reused a video on Twitter of him flipping his hair.
In last year’s Players Association poll, Karlsson was voted to have the third-best locks behind San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Karlsson said he started to grow his hair out when he made the move to North America in 2014. It helped spawn the quiet Swede’s ironic “Wild Bill” nickname as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization.
He drew some attention in his two-plus seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets despite playing mostly on the fourth line, but he became a fan favorite during the Knights’ inaugural season.
His hair had almost as much to do with it as his goal-scoring prowess.
“To see gold like that, his hair looks amazing every time I see him,” linemate Jonathan Marchessault cracked. “Sometimes it gets too long and I don’t want it to look dirty, but now it looks clean. It’s nice.”
Karlsson’s ‘do is a reminder of the days when few players wore helmets and greats such as Guy Lafleur or Ron Duguay showed off their impressive head of hockey hair.
Karlsson created a minor uproar among the Knights’ fan base last November when he trimmed his mane prior to a road trip.
A similar outcry occurred when Karlsson chopped off a few inches from the back prior to the Knights’ game against Winnipeg on Saturday.
“Just give it room to grow,” he explained. “Like, you cut your plants, right? And then it grows out and it looks beautiful.”
Said Schmidt: “He cut a couple inches off, I said to him, ‘Hey, I could use it.’ It’s awesome. All of it. I want it.”
The new look hasn’t slowed Karlsson, who owns a five-game points streak (three goals, four assists) and picked up his 200th career NHL point in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Columbus. Karlsson has 89 goals and 111 assists in 363 career games.
The former Lady Byng Trophy winner as the league’s most sportsmanlike player even threw two hard checks against the Blue Jackets, dropping Riley Nash and Sonny Milano in the first period.
Karlsson, who signed an eight-year, $47.2 million contract in the offseason, has four goals and 16 points through 16 games, good for second on the team behind Mark Stone.
He also shows a plus-7 rating after leading the league in that category in 2017-18 when he was a plus-49.
Karlsson’s current point-per-game pace would surpass his total from two seasons ago when he posted a career-high 43 goals and 78 points to help the Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final.
“I think he got that contract thing out of the way, and that makes a guy feel a lot more comfortable,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “He’s played good hockey for us. He’s been a 200-foot player, plays both ends every night.
“He’s a front-line player, and he’s getting his points. You get a little greedy when you see the (43) the first year. I challenged him to get back to that.”
■ Who: Golden Knights at Maple Leafs
■ When: 4 p.m. Thursday
■ Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
■ TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
■ Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
■ Line: Maple Leafs -125; total 6