Names To Know: Is Leo Carlsson The Future No. 1 Center For Blue Jackets At No. 3?

By Will Chase on June 27, 2023 at 1:45 pm
2023 NHL Draft prospect, Leo Carlsson
YouTube/Orebro Hockey

Welcome to the 6th and final installment of our 'Names To Know', 2023 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.

The Blue Jackets have the No. 3 pick in this week’s draft from Nashville, giving the club an opportunity to claim one of the top centers in a deep class.

Could that center be the Swede, Leo Carlsson?

The 6-foot-3, 194 lb top prospect played in the SHL for Orebro HK last season scoring 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 44 games. He had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 13 playoff games.

Carlsson had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games during the World Juniors and five points (three goals, two assists) in the World Championships.

While there's plenty of speculation as to what might happen after the No. 1 pick, many have linked Carlsson to the Blue Jackets at No. 3, including The Athletic's Corey Pronman just last week in his latest mock draft:

If Anaheim goes Carlsson, I think Columbus is very high on Fantilli and would pick him. If Fantilli goes at No. 2, I’m unsure what happens here. I think there are people in the organization who are super high on both Carlsson and Smith and people in the league think they could go either way.

The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked Carlsson fourth in his NHL Draft ranking:

Though he doesn’t play the game with some of the shine of the three players in front of him, Carlsson had a tremendous age-adjusted season between his play with Orebro in the SHL (including in the playoffs), at the world juniors (where he was one of Sweden’s top forwards despite playing sick/banged up), and then for the senior men’s national team for the first time (a team he is now the youngest player to ever score for), even considering his December 2004 birthday. This all came a year after playing to virtually two points per game at the J20 level (he looked good in an important role as a top-nine centre for Sweden at U18 worlds before an injury kept him out of their medal-round run to a gold medal, too).

"Just the cerebral quality that he has," Wheeler said. "He's a big kid, he's 6-foot-3, 190 lb. You bump into him, you still realize that he's got a lot of room to fill out.

"His game is all about slowing it down, playing at his pace. He's not a super-fast player. He's not a super physical player. But just sort of processes out there. Reads the play at an extremely high level. Understands where to be on the ice, where to go on the ice. How to make plays. Has great sort of finesse skills as a passer and handler of the puck for a player his size.

"He's not going to be a volume shooter. He's not going to be a guy who has six, seven, eight shots on goal in a game. More of a passing, playmaking type.

"But if he can score 20-25 goals in a season and still be a 70-75-point center and have that element of size and play on your top power play unit, that's still a top-three pick all day in the draft."

Carlsson is signed to play in the SHL with Orebro HK next season so it wouldn't appear likely he'd suit up for the 2023-24 NHL season, regardless of wherever he ends up in the draft.

If there is a favorite for the third pick, Carlsson feels like the guy for the Jackets at No. 3. But all it takes is a player such as Adam Fantilli still being on the board to throw all the prognostication to flux.

In Wheeler's latest mock draft, he predicts Will Smith to Columbus at No. 3, which he also predicted when we wrote about Smith last Friday.

With the minutes counting down, we'll soon know.

Mock Draft Results
Yahoo Sports 3rd * To Columbus
My NHL Draft 3rd * To Columbus
Tankathon 3rd * To Columbus 3rd * To Columbus, 4th
The Athletic 4th