Recently we've seen the focus of many teams during the NHL Entry Draft shift from finding offensive weapons, to re-stocking the prospect pool with quality defenders. The speed at which blue-liners come off the board has been astounding, which leads us to assume that many of the prime defensive targets will be off the board once the Habs make it to the podium for the 26th overall pick.
Therefore we have to dig a little deeper to find some strong candidates, and Gabriel Carlsson may be one of those hidden gems.
Birthplace: Orebro, Sweden
Heigth: 6’4" Weight: 185lbs
Carlsson is an agile skater, which he combines with his fantastic reach to shut down opposing forwards. He likes to make the safe play, although he does possess decent stickhandling skills. Scouts love his defensive positioning, as well as his high hockey IQ. Unfortunately, he's not very comfortable in the offensive zone, preferring to give the puck up to his teammates rather than utilizing his shot. He's simply not an offensively inclined defender. He has, however, shown flashes of brilliance when it comes to helping out with creating offense.
At only 18 years old, Carlsson received the call to play with Linkoping of the SHL this season. Again, he did not participate in much offense, but he did impress his coaches with stellar defensive awareness.
A smooth puck-‐moving defenseman who has an impressive frame to build upon, skates well and provides a strong defensive presence. Carlsson is really a great skater for his size, with no real knocks against him. Carries the puck well but has a tendency to over handle the play at times, resulting in some turnovers; he will learn what he can get away with as he matures. His defensive game is effective as he is agile and quick to shut down chances. He is capable of roughing it up in battles and has the strength and battle skills to come out the victor in physical battles. Boxes out the front of his net and is quick to bat away chances with his stick. Needs a bit of simplicity to avoid some blunders, but that may also come with maturity. The combination of his size and skill in both ends will be intriguing for NHL teams, but he will need time.
Gabriel is a defensive defenseman with tremendous reach who can move properly despite his size. He has been getting better along the season, and in February has found a spot on his SHL team. His game is still inconsistent though, especially during puck possession. He will probably never be someone who demands the puck on his stick or likes to carry it up ice, but in his good days he looks quite comfortable with the puck on his stick and able to complete steady plays after managing it away from his opponent. On his bad moments, he struggles with the puck and against the forecheck, relying on his solid decision making to limit the damage. As of now he needs well set up zone exits to be consistently effective against the forecheck.
Future Considerations: 49th
Hockey Prospect: 33rd
Central Scouting, European Skaters: 2nd
Bob McKenzie: 27th
My first inclination is to curse the hockey gods for a lack of a second-round pick, seeing as how most people expect Carlsson to get picked after the first round. Although considering Bob McKenzie has him ranked 27th, he's worth keeping in mind, especially since McKenzie speaks to NHL scouts to compile his list. The fact of the matter is that the Habs desperately need to bolster their defensive prospects. He's probably not the ideal pick, but considering how quickly defenders get picked, he may end up being the best defender on the board once the Habs make their decision.