Entering last summer, the obvious weak spot in this organization was the defense. Rather than stop with #8 pick Zach Werenski, GM Jarmo Kekalainen later traded back into the first round to acquire the 29th pick and select Swedish defenseman Gabriel Carlsson.
At a towering 6’4” Carlsson’s size helped earn him the #2 rank that year among European Skaters, according to NHL Central Scouting. An admirer of countryman Nicklas Lidstrom, Carlsson is described as a stay-at-home defenseman. He does not produce many points, but is praised for his passing ability and his high hockey IQ.
Last season, Carlsson represented Sweden in the World Juniors and played 45 games with Linköping HC of the Swedish Hockey League, where he scored 1/8/9 with a +/- of 4 and just 2 PIM.
OUTLOOK FOR 2016-17
This spring, Carlsson signed his ELC with the Blue Jackets. For the upcoming season, he is slated to return to Linköping HC. Before coming to North America, Carlsson knows he will need to add weight, strength, and speed. He won’t be a consideration for the Jackets this season, but hopefully he will be ready to contribute in 2017 or 2018. In the past year the additions of Carlsson, Werenski, and Seth Jones have turned the defense from a weakness to a reason for optimism.