Leo Carlsson is one of the most highly touted prospects to come out of Sweden in a long time. If I were going up to the stage to make this pick, this is my guy.
Assuming Connor Bedard goes to the Blackhawks first overall, and Adam Fantilli goes to the Ducks second overall, in my opinion, Leo Carlsson is the best player left on the board. I will argue that it’s closer than a lot of people think (more on that later), but really, there’s no need to overthink this pick. Carlsson will be the best player on the board.
He checks every box if you’re looking at organizational needs for the Blue Jackets. He’s a center who has the size we need (6’3″, 194 pounds), he has that much needed high-end playmaking ability, and he’s a stout two-way player who competes in all three zones. He has the potential to become our long sought-after first line center, and he’s really close to being NHL ready. Though, a year of development to let him grow his offensive game, might be best.
In fact, in a lot of other years – including last year – Carlsson is probably a good bet to go first overall. He scored 10 goals and 15 assists in 44 games as an underage player in the SHL this year. If you’re comparing his stats to some of the other guys in this range, that may seem underwhelming, but look at the facts: the SHL is one of the toughest, most defensive leagues in the world.
He was a top-six scorer for his team as an 18 year old. The team’s leading scorer is a 27 year old veteran, who had just 41 points on the season – while playing in 7 more games than Carlsson. His production was no small feat, and he will only continue to get better as time goes on.
That said, his game isn’t perfect. There are concerns about whether or not he plays at the pace required to be an NHL center, and whether or not he’s physical enough to win puck battles at this level. Those concerns are well merited, but I’m not as worried about them. He has the size, skill and distributing ability to be a center in the NHL.
He’s drawn comparisons to Mats Sundin at the same age, but we talked about him being comparable to Florida superstar Aleksander Barkov in our draft previews. Another recent comparison I’ve seen is Anze Kopitar – I do think that Leo Carlsson has the potential to become a similar type of game changing player. There is nothing wrong with picking this guy third overall.