The Blue Jackets began the 2015 NHL Draft with only one first round pick (No. 8 overall), which was used on defenseman Zach Werenski. But, as was anticipated, the Blue Jackets were active and made some moves late in the first round.
A trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs was made to acquire a second first-round pick in exchange for Columbus’ 34th (second round) and 68th (third round) picks in this year's draft. That No. 29 overall pick was used to select another defenseman, Gabriel Carlsson, who was the second "Priority 1" player the Jackets took with their first two selections.
Carlsson, a native of Orebro, Sweden, said he wasn’t sure in which round he would be selected and was excited when the Blue Jackets called his name late in the first round.
“Actually, my agent told me that maybe there would be a bigger chance that I would go early in the second round,” Carlsson said. “So I was really happy to get in the first round and go up on the stage and get the jersey and the hat, so I’m really happy about that.”
Standing at 6-foot-4 and 183 pounds, the 18-year-old prospect said he is happy to be a part of the Blue Jackets organization.
“It feels really great to have this sweater on,” he said. “On the stage, they told me there was a good match with my tie, so that was even better. I heard Columbus is a good team coming up, so it feels great to wear this jersey and be a part of the organization.”
Carlsson recorded 0-7-7 with 14 penalty minutes and a +21 plus/minus rating in 39 games with Linkoping of the Swedish Jr. League in 2014-15. He also notched 0-2-2 and a +3 plus/minus rating in seven games with Linkoping in Sweden’s top professional league.
Carlsson is a strong two-way defenseman who isn’t afraid to use his body. He said he generally defines himself as a defensive defenseman, but he isn’t afraid to get up in the play and move the puck around, either.
“(I define myself as a) stay (at) home defenseman with a good size and a good reach, and I think I read the game pretty well and I have a pretty good first pass and good vision,” Carlsson said.
Carlsson has posted 9-23-32 with 20 penalty minutes and +41 plus/minus rating in 65 career games with Linkoping U18 and Orebro U18 in Sweden’s U18 League. He tallied 4-15-19 and 14 penalty minutes and +35 plus/minus rating in 40 games with Linkoping U18 in 2013-14.
He also represented Sweden at 2015 Under-18 Five Nations tournament and skated for Sweden at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial and World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
And when it comes to NHL players from his home country, he said there’s one guy that he has long admired.
“Nicklas Lidstrom has always been a guy that you always watch ever since you were a little kid and he’s a good role model too for all the small guys in Sweden,” Carlsson said. “Seven Norris trophies really show that he’s a really good defender.”
Although Carlsson doesn’t currently know much about the Blue Jackets and the city of Columbus, that will quickly change when he arrives to town for the team's development camp in the coming week. Thankfully, he brought his skates to the draft, so he's a step ahead.
“I know they have a couple of Swedish (players) in their organization,” Carlsson said. “It feels really great to (go) to the rink there and get to know everyone there and see how they do there.”