Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect: Progress of Gabriel Carlsson


Columbus Blue Jackets: A look the prospect Gabriel Carlsson and his development

In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected a top D prospect in Zach Werenski with their 8th overall pick, but also selected another defensive prospect in their trade up to the 29th pick: Gabriel Carlsson.  Carlsson has been left out of most conversations, as his play is not flashy and he does not put up large offensive totals.  Carlsson, however, has the size and style of play to be the shut down defenseman the Blue Jackets need at the NHL Level.

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Carlsson stands 6 ft 4 and 185 pounds, with a similar frame and playing style as Marc Staal. The young Swede has exceptional reach, first pass and has shown great gap control in the Swedish Elite League this season.  Through 43 SHL games this season, Carlsson has put up 1 goal and 8 assists, which is proof enough to squash any offensively minded expectations.  While powerplay time is not in Carlsson’s future, the stay at home defenseman has exceptional hockey IQ which leaves him better suited for penalty kill time and shut down matchups.  This season we have seen the young defender improve upon his strong play in his own zone and focus on continuing to make strong outlet passes.

While fans should be excited for Carlsson’s development, potential and eventual jump to the NHL, he is likely still a few years away from being NHL ready.  After the draft, Carlsson admitted he is not ready for the North American game and decided to return to Sweden.  The SHL is a fast and skilled league, but it is a league that does not prepare players for the physicality of the NHL.  Carlsson will need to add muscle to his frame and will likely need a year or two playing at the AHL level before his NHL debut.

In two to three seasons when Carlsson does make his debut, he will provide the Blue Jackets with another inexpensive and competent option on the back end.  Carlsson joining Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, David Savard and Zach Werenski will allow the team to ice three strong defensive pairings in the future and clearly points to the team building from the back end.  With only a few minor holes on offense, the Blue Jackets plan is finally making itself visible to the fans and competitive years are not far away.