NHL News

No. 2 pick Carlsson’s Ducks debut expected Thur.

Leo Carlsson, the hulking Swedish center who the Anaheim Ducks drafted with the second overall pick in June, is expected to make his NHL debut Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

If Carlsson does debut against the Stars at Honda Center, he will be the fourth member of the 2023 draft class to play in the NHL. It’s a group led by Chicago Blackhawks center and No. 1 pick Connor Bedard, along with Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli and Buffalo Sabres winger Zach Benson.

He’ll also become the third-youngest Duck and the second-youngest forward in team history to make his debut. Only Oleg Tverdovsky and Mason McTavish were younger than Carlsson when they debuted.

Carlsson sat out the Ducks’ first two games of the season with a minor injury last week. Anaheim recovered from a season-opening 4-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights to beat one of the NHL’s strongest Cup contenders in the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 on Sunday.

With Bedard the presumed No. 1 pick for more than a year, there had been questions regarding who would be selected next. Fantilli, who starred at the University of Michigan, had been considered a strong favorite to go second, yet Carlsson’s name kept coming up as the draft approached.

Anaheim chose the 6-foot-3 Carlsson over Fantilli, with Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek telling reporters at the draft that the organization liked Carlsson’s creativity, intelligence and ability to make those around him better.

The final selling point for the Ducks was watching Carlsson at the IIHF Men’s World Championships, where he served as Sweden’s top-line center as a teenager playing against older, more physically mature competition.

The Ducks have used the past few years to draft and develop a number of young talents led by Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale and McTavish, among others. On Thursday, assuming Carlsson debuts, they’ll be able to get a glimpse of what could be a promising future.

Carlsson, if he plays, is expected to center a line with Terry and Zegras as his wingers.

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