The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Lucas Carlsson.
Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King was asked after the official conclusion of the 2019-20 AHL season which players took the biggest strides and rattled off several names. He didn't hesitate when Lucas Carlsson crossed his mind.
"I thought Lucas Carlsson had a huge, huge season," King said. "Big jump."
Carlsson was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft and spent two years in the Swedish Hockey League before making the leap to the pros. He spent a full season with the IceHogs, where he turned in a strong effort by recording nine goals and 24 assists in 69 games.
But the Blackhawks' pipeline on defense was starting to get crowded and Carlsson was seemingly getting lost in the shuffle.
Henri Jokiharju made the Blackhawks out of training camp in 2018-19 and emerged as their most NHL ready defenseman prospect. Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling got extended looks with the big club, too. Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, both of whom were drafted in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, joined 2016 second-round pick Chad Krys as a full-time pro this past season.
It wasn't until February when Carlsson finally got his chance to prove what he can do at the NHL level. He's the kind of player that doesn't excel at one thing but is solid in just about every area and that's the type of defenseman coaches appreciate.
"I think he's made a transition to the NHL level, being able to transfer his game," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I was familiar with him just from having him in Rockford when I was there and obviously watching him down there, but you just never know how it's going to carry over. He can pass the puck, he moves it well, he's confident with it which helps get yourself out of D zone and create good situations for the people you're on the ice with. And he's physical. He's willing to take a battle and willing to get a stop, and that helps."
There was, however, an unfortunate stumbling block. In his fifth game, Carlsson left in the second period because of a concussion, which was the same day the Blackhawks promoted him to the second power-play unit. Fortunately for Carlsson, he missed only two games and didn't skip a beat when he re-entered the lineup.
The Blackhawks had six goals for and three goals against when Carlsson was on the ice at 5-on-5 despite having an offensive zone faceoff start percentage of 41.0, according to Natural Stat Trick. It's a small sample size, but Carlsson certainly showed he can hold his own at the NHL level.
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