The Anaheim Ducks showed they believe in Leo Carlsson’s potential when they selected him second overall just two weeks ago, and today they’ve affirmed it. He’s signed a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced, although they didn’t disclose financial details.
While Carlsson was considered a lock to go top-five on draft day, few thought he’d go second overall ahead of reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli. The Ducks and general manager Pat Verbeek had made their choice internally, though, believing they were getting a better player in Carlsson. They opted to pass on Fantilli, who the Columbus Blue Jackets were happy to select at third overall.
The second overall selection is by no means a reach for Carlsson, though – he would have been in the discussion for the first overall choice in many past drafts. He was named the Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year last season playing for Orebro HK in the SHL, posting strong totals for a draft-eligible talent with ten goals, 15 assists, and 25 points in 44 games.
It’s impressive scoring for an 18-year-old against professional competition, especially when you consider his 25 points rank as the fifth-highest for a draft-eligible player in SHL history, trailing only Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Elias Lindholm, and Nicklas Backstrom. In addition, Carlsson led all SHL players aged 20 and under in points per game, ranking second in goals and third in total points and assists.
The Karlstad product also made history at the 2023 IIHF World Championship as the youngest player ever to score a goal for Sweden at 18 years and 138 days old.
Where Carlsson actually suits up next season remains unclear. His agent said earlier this month that there was no rush to decide where he’d play in 2023-24, and he now has four options with his entry-level contract out of the way: the NHL, AHL, SHL, or a combination. Being a first-round pick, his ELC with Anaheim takes precedence over the contract he’d signed in Sweden next season with Orebro, although Anaheim could still opt to loan him back to Sweden if that’s what Carlsson and the team believes is best for his development. They can also keep him in North America the entire year if they want, as he’s eligible for assignment to the minors with the San Diego Gulls.