March 24, 2023

Leo Carlsson is on a rampage to begin the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) season. As one of the top prospects from this upcoming 2023 Draft class, he’s making sure that everyone notices him with his 12 points in 17 games. But his point production isn’t the only reason that he’s ready for the NHL.

2023 Draft Eligible Leo Carlsson Is NHL Ready

Carlsson is always driving play to the opposition’s net, creating plays for his teammates, and doing it all while not looking out of place in one of the best hockey leagues in the entire world. Let’s look at some clips of his play and SHL comparables to get a better sense of him as a player.

SHL Comparables

The SHL is a great league for NHL prospects to come up in and round out their game. It’s a competitive league that values winning over development. You either pick up your game or get lost in the ice-time shuffle.

A few of the most productive draft-year SHL seasons were had by the likes of Markus Naslund (19 points), Rasmus Dahlin (20 points), Victor Hedman (21 points), William Eklund (23 points), Nicklas Backstrom (26 points), Elias Lindholm (30 points), Henrik Sedin (34 points) and Daniel Sedin (42 points). There is only one player (Eklund) on this list who isn’t (or hasn’t) played in the NHL. The Sedin twins and Naslund had productive careers before their retirement, and the remaining players all presently play in the NHL and are high-end contributors to their organizations.

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The Sedin twins hold the highest points per game (PPG) pace of all SHL-drafted players in their draft year. Henrik tallied 34 points in 49 games (0.69 PPG) while Daniel collected 42 points in 50 games for 0.84 PPG.

Carlsson’s 12 points in 17 games give him a 0.70 PPG pace. Prorated over a 51-game campaign would give him 36 points in 51 games. Put simply, his production has his name spoken in the same sentence as two of the greatest Vancouver Canucks to ever play the game.

Carlsson’s Net Driving Play

If you’ve been following the 2023 Entry Draft on Twitter you will have seen a Carlsson highlight of him stickhandling around an opponent (or several) and finishing off with a shot (or shot attempt). Take into consideration this highlight:

Leo Carlsson didn’t score here, but shows why he is one of the top eligible prospects for the #2023NHLDraft

There are two things going on here. One, he displays great discipline in staying with the puck and continuing to push the play into the opponent’s zone. Two, once he has full control, he surveys his options and then drives to the net. One slick toe-drag past the last defender and he gets a high-danger scoring chance that the goalie stops.

Related: Red Wings’ Prospects Report Kasper & Wallinder Shining Early

Carlsson did not hesitate or second guess his decision. He looked at his options and committed. His confidence allows him to make these kinds of plays, and his skill helps him execute them to a high level.

Carlsson’s Playmaking Ability

The first evidence of Carlsson’s elite playmaking ability is the number of assists he has gathered this season so far. Of his 12 points, 10 have been assists. That only gives us a glimpse of his actual abilities with the puck, though. Let’s take a look:

A few notable highlights from Leo Carlsson’s (2023) performance against Timrå IK last Saturday (0+1, 19:10 TOI).
Crafty playmaking (both 5v5 and PP), taking pucks inside, handling, puck protection/knowing how to initiate contact to his advantage. #2023NHLDraft

This clip has several highlights but I want to draw your attention to the first one. Carlsson takes the puck from center ice and then enters the offensive zone. From there he goes to the outside, drawing a defender to him in the process. He gets closer to the net as he approaches the goal line, skates around the net, and then passes to an open teammate who scores. Not only did he get the assist on this goal but he clearly created the play and relied on a teammate to help finish it off.

Cool As A Cucumber

The biggest reason that Carlsson is ready for the NHL today is his calmness under pressure. Too often you see prospects or rookies struggle against NHL competition by mishandling pucks or making other unforced errors. He is playing with swagger and confidence this season in a league that isn’t that far off from NHL-level competition.

Leo Carlsson (2023), Oct 18th
Added 3 assists with 17+ mins of ice time, bumping him up to 10 points in 11 SHL games. 86% success rate in transition at 5v5.
Crafty, deceptive playmaking was yet again the highlight of the game. #2023NHLDraft

In the second highlight from this compilation (10 seconds in) we see Carlsson poke the puck out of a board battle on the right side, gain possession, and skate toward the net before completing a no-look pass to his teammate. They didn’t score, but another teammate did off the rebound. Throughout that play (and every other one in this Tweet) Carlsson never looked out of place. In clips like this one, he’s just toying with the opposition.

Carlsson Is NHL Ready

Players that dominate the SHL in their draft year do not come around often. The last player with even a sniff of similar production was Elias Lindholm who was drafted back in 2013. That will be a ten-year gap by the time the 2023 Draft rolls around.

With Carlsson’s combination of point production, net-driving tendencies, playmaking, and ability to play at a high level under pressure, he is poised to continue tearing up the SHL. He is already in consideration for a top-five selection. Once his name is called in Nashville at the 2023 Draft, I expect him to play in the NHL right away and continue his dominant play.

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