Welcome to another prospect profile here on A Winning Habit, where we learn more about some players the Canadiens could potentially select with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. This is the second edition, where we will be looking at Swedish prospect Leo Carlsson. You can find the first prospect profile on Will Smith here.
Carlsson spent his year in the top league in Sweden, playing against men, and he raised a lot of eyebrows. The Swede put up 25 points in 44 games for Örebro HK and added 9 more in 13 playoff games. His 25 points are the fifth most for a draft-year player in the SHL, just behind some elite company like Nicklas Backstrom and the Sedin twins. Carlsson also performed well internationally at both the World Juniors and World Hockey Championships, putting up a combined 11 points in 15 games.
Team: Örebro HK (SHL)
Height/Weight: 6’3″/194 lbs
DOB: Dec 26, 2004
Hometown: Karlstad, Sweden
Analysis & NHL Projection
Carlsson is one of the more complete players in the draft, as he’s an effective player at both ends of the ice. When you talk about intelligent prospects that can do a little bit of everything, that’s Carlsson. He’s big, skilled, and incredibly smart on the ice, which helps pretty much every aspect of his game. The list of players with a better hockey IQ than Carlsson is a short one if the list even exists at all. When you talk about transferable skills to the NHL game, there might not be a better skill to have.
The biggest question mark in Carlsson’s game is his skating, as it’s not elite by any stretch. Still, with elite hockey sense, he can play the game at any pace, just don’t expect to see many breakaways or other scoring chances created by pure foot speed. Still, his traits have NHL player written all over them. He’s smart, we’ve covered that, but he’s also got great hands that allow him to make exceptional plays, and he willingly attacks the middle of the ice, a must in the NHL.
Carlsson could easily become an NHL All-Star with point-per-game capabilities pretty early in his career, and I’d be shocked if he never becomes that. He quite easily projects as a #1 centre on most teams, and he could maybe win some hardware while doing so. I’ve seen some people compare him to that of Anze Kopitar, a two-time cup champ and selke winner. That’s a pretty high bar to meet, but the Swedish forward certainly has the potential to meet it.
Leo Carlsson Draft Projection
Carlsson is the kind of prospect NHL teams drool over, as he has the total package. He’s big, looks to be a 200-foot player, and is still incredibly gifted offensively. And yet, he could go anywhere from two to five. As good as he is, he won’t dethrone Connor Bedard from the top spot. Carlsson will go in the top five, barring something unexpected, which is certainly possible. In other years, he might even be a first-overall pick, he’s just in a really strong draft class.
Carlsson’s Fit With The Canadiens
Similar to Smith’s fit with the Canadiens, Carlsson would do wonders for Montreal. The Habs could use a talent like Carlsson, and they could use it as soon as possible. And Carlsson feels like he checks all the boxes that seem to matter to the Canadiens as he’s big, defensively responsible, but most importantly, really good offensively. If he’s available at 5, which seems like a big if, the Canadiens should waste no time getting up to that podium to call his name.
Carlsson can also play the wing, so he’s versatile, and it gives the Canadiens options should they choose to roll with Suzuki and Dach as their top two centres. Either way, adding Leo Carlsson into the fold would be a massive opportunity for the Canadiens. Being able to add a complete player while also addressing the Habs’ biggest need cannot be overlooked.
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