The Blackhawks haven’t had many defenseman prospects work out over the past few years, but 2016 fourth-round pick Lucas Carlsson has shown NHL potential. He’s a well-rounded blue liner who spent last season in Sweden’s top league at age 19. Now set to return to the SHL, Carlsson will have a chance to keep developing his game before hopefully earning an entry-level contract next spring. At this point, he’s one of the top prospects in the organization without a deal.
Birth date: July 5, 1997
Acquired via: 2016 NHL Draft, fourth round (No. 110 overall)
Most recent stop: Brynäs IF (SHL)
Size: 6’0, 190 pounds
Carlsson fell to the fourth round of the 2016 draft, where the Blackhawks scooped him up with the No. 110 overall pick. He had split his draft year between Brynäs IF’s U-20 team in the SuperElit and the senior Brynäs IF team in the SHL. He put up nine points in 35 SHL games as an 18-year-old.
Last season, Carlsson returned to the SHL and put up 11 points in 41 games. He also played in 20 playoff games as Brynäs IF reached Game 7 of the league championship series. The Växjö Lakers ended up winning the title, but Carlsson was playing a key role on a very good team in Sweden last season.
He also played for Sweden at the 2017 World Juniors, where he recorded one goal and two assists in seven games as the team finished fourth.
There’s a lot to like about Carlsson’s game. He’s an all-around defenseman who can skate, move the puck, and shows a solid understanding of defensive positioning.
“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen,” Hawks scouting director Mark Kelley told The Athletic this summer. “I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”
Carlsson lacks the elite-level skill to have really high upside, but there’s reason to believe he could develop into a good second- or third-pairing blue liner in the NHL.
That would be a welcomed outcome for the Blackhawks as they seek to fill out their defensive depth in the coming years. The team has a couple of players with higher upside in Gustav Forsling and Henri Jokiharju, but Carlsson could join them lower on the depth chart.
What’s next in 2017-18?
Carlsson is set to return to Brynäs IF next season. Expectations will be high for him in the SHL this season given his solid performance as a teenager. Now at 20 years old, it’s time for Carlsson to take his game to the next level. If that happens, expect him to receive an entry-level contract offer from the Blackhawks next year.