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Top of the lottery prospects: Introducing Leo Carlsson

Leo Carlsson will likely be available to come to the NHL sooner than Matvei Michkov but may be ranked lower on draft boards.

Czech Republic v Sweden: 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Leo Carlsson of Team Sweden skates during the first period of the semifinal round of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

(Editor’s note: Since we all know what this season is about, we’re going to start keeping tabs on the four prospects expected to be atop draft boards for the 2023 NHL Draft. We start with Leo Carlsson:)

Leo Carlsson is the other top European skater in this year’s draft, and as a forward in Sweden’s SHL, he’ll be available to NHL teams much sooner than Russian forward Matvei Michkov and will be (likely) a lot less complicated to bring over.

Carlsson, who turned on the day after Christmas, was great for Sweden in the World Juniors, with six points (3 G, 3 A) in seven games for the Three Kings. Carlsson has been great all year for Sweden’s international squads amassing 17 points (10 G, 7 A) in 13 games.

Carlsson is also playing against men in one of the world’s best leagues — the SHL — where he skates for Örebro HK. Carlsson has three goals and 11 assists in 25 games so far this season. He’s playing middle-six minutes, averaging about 14 per game, although there’s been games where he’s been called on to play more than 20.

Carlsson also spent 35 games in the SHL with Örebro last season, finishing with nine points (3 G, 6 A). Carlsson has not been as big of a goal scorer in the SHL as he has been on the international stage, but his ability to score should not be discounted.

Carlsson’s also one of the largest players among the top five this year at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds. Carlsson can use that size in conjunction with his skating ability, which TSN’s Craig Button called “brilliant.”

Carlsson was dependent upon his skating and playmaking abilities before he grew about seven inches during the summer of 2020, going from 5-7 to 6-2, according to NHL.com.

Playing for Örebro, Carlsson is playing on a true playoff team, with Örebro having a 17-14 record that’s good for sixth in the SHL — a league with the team six teams making the playoffs. Örebro’s roster includes familiar names like Philip Holm, as well as top-flight prospects like Elias Pettersson (a defenseman this time) and recently drafted players like Max Kilpinen (a Red Wings’ 2022 fourth-round pick).

There have been periods where Carlsson has not been able to score, including a five-game scoreless streak in late November into early December, but there have also been times where teams couldn’t hold Carlsson off the scoresheet, including a five-game point streak in late September.

Carlsson is receiving a lot of press right now for his play in the World Juniors, where he was a leader for Sweden: third in scoring and first among those who have yet to be drafted. What sets Carlsson apart is his ability to combine size and ability, and to be one of the better skating power forwards available in years.

Carlsson is both a forward who knows how to drive to the net and has the skating to get him there quickly.

Örebro’s upcoming games include contests against Linkoping, currently a wild card, on Thursday as well as Brynas, a team outside the playoffs, on Saturday. Next week, Örebro faces Timra, the team ahead of them in the standings.