With draft day getting closer and closer, it seems like the entire world (hockey Twitter) is talking about Leo Carlsson, again. The Swedish center, who is currently playing for Örebro in the SHL, is now up to 18 points in 34 games (5 G, 13 A) after scoring three goals in the last 10 games.
Carlsson has pretty consistently been ranking third in the prospects behind Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, and not much has changed as of late. Sportsnet did have him up at No. 2 over Fantilli last month, while The Athletic had him down at No. 4 behind Russian RW Matvei Michkov, who plays for HK Sochi in the KHL.
Carlsson is known for his size (the kid is 6-foot-3) and his hands, which both have fared well in the SHL. The Hockey Writers, who ranked Carlsson third in their January draft, said this about him:
His skill and power combination make him a nightmare for defenders as he can beat you with his hands or by tossing his large frame into you to protect the puck. Carlsson’s ability to find and make space off the puck is also impressive for such a young player playing against grown men. He has the potential to make a real impact in the NHL as soon as next year considering his success on both ends of the ice in Sweden thus far. The way that Fantilli plays wouldn’t really fly in the SHL where you need to be dependable at all times, and Carlsson’s maturity, reliability, and his clear understanding of what makes him great are the reasons he has succeeded in a top pro league as a teenager.
Here he is demonstrating his size and maneuverability while playing in a game last Thursday:
Leo Carlsson with a takeaway in the offensive zone and then nearly scores a beauty. Robbed by an absolutely outrageous last-ditch save from Lars Johansson #2023NHLDrafrt #SHL pic.twitter.com/9y9gkwhbWn— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) February 2, 2023
Data from the Director of European Scouting for Elite Prospects also revealed more about Carlsson’s aggressiveness and control over the puck:
In addition, the project includes around 400 games of historical comparison data of top European draft-eligible prospects from the past 6 years.— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) January 27, 2023
If you've ever wanted to see how Leo Carlsson compares to Lucas Raymond or William Eklund in their draft years, it's all in there. pic.twitter.com/E5VLcaX5MD
As Carlsson himself said: “I’m a big, strong player who sees the ice well and uses my size to have the puck a lot, while making plays and creating scoring chances for myself and my teammates. At a young age, I was always very quick and fast. As I got older, I began to enjoy my intensive off-ice training and that has helped me to get even faster and quicker, especially in the corners and tight situations.”
Carlsson had nine points (3G, 6A) in the SHL in the 2021-2022 season, and averaged 11:14 in 35 games. He also helped Sweden win gold this May at the 2022 World Under-18 Championship in Germany.
He told the NHL that his heroes are Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, and Anze Kopitar, which are big figures to live up to. He said:
“I like to watch Auston Matthews because he’s very smooth and smart with a great shot. People say my game is similar to Anze Kopitar, which is a great compliment because he’s a leader who has won two Stanley Cups ... and that’s my goal. Crosby’s skill and competitiveness are impressive, and Evgeni Malkin is a big man, like me, who protects the puck well and makes plays. Both of them are great players and winners.”
Otherwise, he says he has hardly paid attention to his competition in the draft.