Second City Hockey’s 2020-21 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2020. The rankings are determined by a composite score from three SCH writers and community member, L_B_R. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
Lucas Carlsson played just six games in the regular season with the Blackhawks, his first taste of the NHL during his second hockey season in North America after leaving from Brynas of the SHL. He also made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, skating a quiet 10:33 during Game 2 of the Blackhawks’ first-round series with the Golden Knights.
In that limited sample size, though, Carlsson tallied his first NHL point — a secondary assist on this goal by Dylan Strome — while averaging 14:08 of ice time. According to Evolving-Hockey, Carlsson registered 2.2 goals above replacement and 0.4 wins above replacement. in those six games. Connor Murphy, who was Carlsson’s most frequent partner at the NHL level, saw many of his analytics improve while paired with Carlsson, including shot share, goal share and expected goal share increase. And all that occurred while Murphy took more defensive zone faceoffs when paired with Carlsson.
Besides the now-departed team of Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek, the duo of Murphy and Carlsson was one of Chicago’s better pairings late in the season. While that didn’t necessarily translate to the postseason, Carlsson showed a glimpse of what he could someday do for the Blackhawks: play an important depth role on the blue line and eat minutes with a good partner.
Carlsson also had the best performance in the AHL among IceHog blueliners. His .54 points per game mark was the best among defensemen in Rockford (the next best was Philip Holm with .50). For the second straight season, the IceHogs named him the team’s Defenseman of the Year.
With the Blackhawks blue line adding depth this offseason (Ian Mitchell, Nikita Zadorov and a healthy Brent Seabrook replace the exiting Maatta and Koekkoek) Carlsson will likely be a top-pairing defenseman in Rockford, as it’s hard to find a spot for Carlsson in Chicago’s crowded corps of blue-liners.
Should injuries create lineup vacancies or the Blackhawks look to the AHL to replace an underperforming NHLer, Carlsson figures to be one of the first names called as someone who can play up and down the lineup.