3 Teams That Can’t Pass On Top-5 Draft Prospect Leo Carlsson

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft has a lot of high-end talent. One of those talents who is projected to go in the top five is the highest-ranked Swedish player, Leo Carlsson. He is a playmaking center who isn’t afraid to take the puck to the net to create scoring chances.

Leo Carlsson Team Sweden
Leo Carlsson, Team Sweden (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Of course, every team in the league could use an NHL-ready player like that. Because he is a draft-eligible player we will look at teams that finished high in the draft lottery to see who would be the best fit for the Swedish center.

Honourable Mentions: Detroit Red Wings & Anaheim Ducks

The Detroit Red Wings will pick eighth in the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft. There is a very slim chance that Carlsson is still there when Steve Yzerman steps up to the podium. Lucas Raymond has had amazing chemistry playing on the same line with Carlsson in the World Championships right now which should make Yzerman sprint to the podium to add him to the Red Wings prospect pool, should he still be on the board.

Related: Top 5 NHL-Ready Prospects Available in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft

The Anaheim Ducks get the other honorable mention. While it is tough to pass on a special player like Adam Fantilli, Carlsson is fantastic in his own right. I think the only way that the Ducks walk away with Carlsson at the draft is if they trade down one or two spots. To do that they would need to be higher on Carlsson than Fantilli, which is not very likely.

3. Montreal Canadiens

After selecting Juraj Slavkovsky first overall last year the Montreal Canadiens are looking to speed up their rebuild. They have a lot of great prospects in the pipeline like Sean Farrell, Joshua Roy and Lane Hutson along with a few great young players in Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach and Cole Caufield.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The thought of having a setup man like Carlsson in your lineup with snipers like Caufield has to be enticing. With Carlsson on his line, Caufield could score 50 goals next season. If he was still on the board at fifth overall, they’d be laughing all the way back to Quebec. With the state of the Canadiens’ rebuild, he could play in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) next year and then move over to North America the year after. They wouldn’t be out of the woods yet, but Carlsson could help lead the charge.

2. Arizona Coyotes

The rebuild is in full swing with the Arizona Coyotes. They have picked up some impressive pieces over the past several drafts including Logan Cooley, Connor Geekie, and Dylan Guenther. The young talent on this team is very impressive with the likes of Clayton Keller, Victor Soderstrom, Barrett Hayton, Lawson Crouse, and Jusso Valimaki leading the way.

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Add Carlsson to that mix and suddenly the center depth for the future is impressive with Cooley and Geekie already in the system. As the Edmonton Oilers have demonstrated, you can have three centers in your top six. The extra center can help whichever line he is on by taking faceoffs once in a while. It also adds flexibility for the coaching staff, where they can shorten the bench to three lines during a game and juggle different matchups as a result. With Arizona’s arena predicament and the need to drive more attention to the team, selecting Carlsson would really help make the on-ice product better and coincidentally improve their financial situation.

1. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the best possible landing spot for Carlsson. They already have a great prospect pipeline on defence with David Jiricek, Nick Blankenberg, Denton Mateychuk and Stanislav Svozil chomping at the bit to crack the NHL roster. Their forward prospects are slightly less deep with Jordan Dumais, Yegor Chinakov and Kent Johnson in the mix. The lack of a potential top center in the prospect pool is the number one reason why the Blue Jackets should select Carlsson at third overall in the upcoming draft. Johnson is an incredibly skilled player but has different strengths than Carlsson.

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The Blue Jackets definitely have options for their third overall selection. Carlsson makes a lot of sense primarily because he is a playmaker on a team full of snipers. Patrik Laine, Kirill Marchenko, Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau all have an incredible shot and were the top four goalscorers for the team this season. As a fan of the team, you have to be excited at the possibility of Carlsson setting up Marchenko and Laine for one-timers.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets still have a long way to go to be a playoff team again. This draft could get them the first-line center that they desperately need. Carlsson has the tools to be that center and the style of play that meshes perfectly with the budding young talent on this squad. He’s already played hockey against men for two years so they could bring him into the NHL next year. He could slot in as the second-line center right away with Jenner manning the top line. The team could transition him into a first-line center in a year or two, and slowly decrease Jenner’s ice time. That way they don’t rush Carlsson and they don’t overuse Jenner as his age creeps up. This feels like a slam dunk to me, and I think the Blue Jackets would be a little crazy to go in a different direction.

Once the first two picks are off the board, anything could happen. But these three teams shouldn’t have to think too hard about drafting Carlsson if he is still there at their selection.