Photo Credit: Örebro
Leo Carlsson is the top European prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft on the Smaht Scouting Preliminary Rankings.
He has spent the last two seasons mainly playing in the SHL for Örebro. Carlsson has been in the Örebro system since 2020. Before Örebro, he was playing U16 and U18 hockey for Färjestad (his local club as Carlsson grew up in Karlstad, Sweden which is where Färjestad is based).
In his DY-1 campaign, he spent 14 games at the U20 level for Örebro and lit up the lamp. He tallied 27 points in 14 games. Carlsson was tied for first with Liam Öhgren for points per game at 1.93. Unstoppable. His performance at the U20 level proved that he was ready for the next challenge. Full-time SHL play and he is getting that this season.
Carlsson is a prospect who can be a cornerstone player in a few years. His combination of speed and size can make him difficult to beat in every zone. In the next four sections, I’ll break down his play in all three zones and his skating.
D.O.B – December 26, 2004
Nationality – Swedish
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –194 lbs
Position – Center/Wing
Handedness – Left
Carlsson’s Style Of Play
Carlsson’s forechecking is an area of his game that has extremely good promise, but is still in development. Carlsson’s position will be shifted throughout games. There are some shifts in which he seems to be used as a center and some shifts in which he is being used on the wing. Since he is flipping back and forth, he seems to be a little unsure of what his role is supposed to be on the forecheck. He isn’t sure if he is supposed to be an outlet option should one of his teammates win possession of the puck in a loose puck battle or if he should be the one laying down checks behind the red line in loose puck battles. So, for the most part, Carlsson tends to play more of the center role on the forecheck. He keeps his feet moving down low to key up outlet passing lane options for his teammates to utilize. While Carlsson does end up adopting more of the center role, he does do a great job leveraging his speed to get himself into position to get the inside track on loose pucks when none of his teammates are anywhere near the puck. He will also look to leverage his upper body strength to push past attackers should it be a very tight contested battle in which Carlsson has to use his frame to get himself into position to win the puck. In addition to leveraging his speed and size to get the inside track on puck battles, he has the reach to take away passing lanes by aligning his stick blade with the attacker’s stick blade and trapping them. He also has the reach to stick lift and cause puck disruption when skating just slightly behind the attacker.
When he wins possession in loose puck battles, he doesn’t like to hold onto the puck for too long. Looks for options down low in the slot and wires passes to them. He knows that he can’t hold onto the puck for a while because he has pressure in his rearview mirror. So, he wires the pass to the high danger area.
Carlsson does an excellent job of creating space for himself in heavy traffic situations with puck manipulation. He shifts the puck towards the attacker and then cradles it quickly to the other side. Then he skates into open ice and can put a quality shot on net or pass the puck to an open teammate.
Sometimes he will look to curl the puck between his skates to put himself in a situation where he can try a backhand shot on net from an angle that is a bit more open versus if he had the puck out in front of him. Skates around the attacker and then can put a quality shot on net.
Not only is his handling leading to quality opportunities for him, but he also does an excellent job of securing the puck while dealing with tight shoulder to shoulder pressure. But, not only can he maintain possession of the puck, he can also fire shots on net with pressure pushing into him.
When it comes to Carlsson cycling the puck, he runs the cycle extremely well no matter where he is in the offensive zone. Should he have the puck behind the red line, he looks to deliver quick feeds to the slot to net scoring chances. Carlsson has excellent vision and he identifies cross ice passing lanes in which he has to pass underneath the stick of an attacker while on the move.
Usually when Carlsson carries the puck in the offensive zone, he stops at the point to wait for the F2 and F3 to skate into the zone. That allows him to survey the ice and where the attackers are in position to his teammates. When he spots that his teammate is skating to net front, if he doesn’t have any other great options, he will aim to get the puck to his teammate as soon as his teammate is at net front. Carlsson is wired to create high danger chances.
When he doesn’t have possession of the puck but his teammates do, he will go up to the low slot and post up for deflections and tip-in opportunities. That has paid off in international play.
Should his teammates lose control of the puck, he usually falls back and plays conservatively as his teammates are slightly closer to the puck.
The only area (aside from Carlsson becoming slightly more assertive and physical) in the offensive zone that needs further development is his shot. Carlsson struggles to connect on his one-timer shots. When he looks to shoot the one-timer, the stick blade isn’t connecting with the puck. He is mistiming when his stick blade should make contact with the puck. In addition, when on the move, a lot of his shots are going wide. His plant skate isn’t lining up towards the net and that doesn’t allow him to be accurate with his shot when on the move. But, this is addressable. I’m not worried about his shot.
His positioning will alter. Some shifts he takes on the center role and some shifts he takes on the winger role. All-in-all, I like his defending quite a bit. He takes up space and draws oppositional puck movement into low danger. He does a good job assessing vulnerability and calling an audible to switch from defending like a center to defending like a winger. If he sees that an attacker and has the puck on his stick and he is the closest skater, he will use an active stick and trap them in low danger along the boards.
As stated above, sometimes Carlsson will defend like a winger and position himself at the perimeter to shut down puck movement from the point. He does a good job using his size and an active stick to swallow up space at open ice. He will extend his stick blade to match where the attacker has positioned his stick blade at open ice to prevent the attacker from getting a shot on net.
When oppositional puck movement is a bit far away from his positioning, he has good speed that he can leverage to get back in a hurry on the back check with his straight line strides.
In general, he stands close by his teammates when they are actively engaged for puck. He provides them with an outlet passing lane that they can exploit to quickly get the puck away from traffic. Once he gets the puck from the outlet pass, he quickly distributes the puck to a teammate near the blue line.
Carlsson is highly effective at mop up duty (loose puck recovery). He grabs onto loose pucks should his wingers struggle (in situations in which he wasn’t in position to provide an outlet lane) with capturing the puck during a tight battle.
Carlsson is a very tactical passer. If he has a tight lane and a teammate in view, he will take the lane and take it quickly. Carlsson is very good at distribution in tight lanes when pressure closes in on him as he looks to skate out of his own zone with the puck. He can shift the puck from forehand to backhand to secure the puck once the attack moves in tight and then he will complete a backhand saucer feed to a teammate in the neutral zone.
Even though sometimes he looks for the quick one touch outlet pass to a teammate, there are shifts in which Carlsson carries the puck out of the zone himself. Carlsson is quite good at pushing the puck past the defenseman who is putting pressure on him near the blue line after securing loose pucks along the half-wall. Once he pushes the puck past the attacker, he then picks the puck back up and uses his quality speed to push himself through the neutral zone. When he needs to push the puck away from pressure as he skates out of the zone, he will extend his reach and push the puck wide to secure it. If he knows that the traffic that he just dodged can get right back on him quickly, he will quickly and cleanly execute a pass to a teammate in the neutral zone and hit them in stride. While he can navigate the puck around traffic efficiently, sometimes the pressure can be overbearing. Carlsson evaluates traffic well and will double back to reset when there is absolutely no breathing room.
If he is skating behind the rush at open ice, but not too far away from the puck carrying attacker, he will stick lift attackers to cause puck control disruption. If he is facing the rush, he will extend his stick blade out and try to knock the attacker off of the puck. In situations where Carlsson is at a bit of a distance, he does an excellent job of taking away space by manipulating the attacker with his stick blade placement. He can dictate where they end up and then he can trap them along the half-wall. By that point, he is in range to pick the attacker’s pocket, pivot out and wire a pass to a teammate who has a bit more room than he does.
Usually, Carlsson is very conservative with his play against the opposition’s puck movement. He will drop back and fill in for a defenseman who engaged in a puck battle and isn’t in position. That allows him to get open in the neutral zone, assess the puck movement, track passes, skate into the puck and grab a hold of the puck. He will then drive the puck back into the offensive zone.
But, he is also very conservative with his own puck movement. If he sees that he is face daunting pressure with no skating lane to use, he will complete a drop pass to his defenseman. That allows play to reset, the defenseman grabs control and enters the offensive zone with the puck.
When he is in possession of the puck in the neutral zone and spots an open teammate near the offensive zone blue line, he will pass to those teammates. Carlsson is tactical. He is constantly looking for options to get the puck into the offensive zone fast and he will consistently distribute accurate passes to his teammates even when under immense pressure. Carlsson will pass underneath the attacker’s stick when he identifies a teammate in range.
Overall, Carlsson has a good blend of speed and size. He constantly stays well aligned to puck movement. Carlsson has quick feet and can react to a pivot on a dime. When he first looks to generate speed when going after a loose puck in the neutral zone, he’ll use a crossover or two to get momentum and keep the momentum alive with lengthy stride extensions. The speed that he nets allows him to win puck battles shift-in shift-out. His quick feet allows him to react to a big change in puck movement. He will pivot, complete a crossover or two and use his straight line stride extensions to power him to loose pucks.
Carlsson doesn’t just do a good job of generating the speed necessary to get his hands on the puck. But, he also does a good job of surveying his opponent’s speed and matching it in situations where he is far back. He knows that he won’t be able to get to the puck based on his positioning. But, he does know that he can generate enough speed to get into a position where he can trap the attacker once the attacker nets possession of the loose puck.
When he gets onto North American ice, with his speed, if he develops his physical play, he is going to be a pain for his attackers. He is going to be able to close out gaps and complete shoulder checks to cause change in possession routinely.
It’s been a long report. I’ll be short here. I promise.
Carlsson is a potential cornerstone player. He has all the tools that teams look for in an impact player. A player that teams can count on no matter what the situation. He constantly looks for ways to move the puck up the ice and into high danger. There is one heck of a player in Leo Carlsson.
December 21, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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