The Ducks will activate rookie center Leo Carlsson ahead of this afternoon’s game against the Panthers, according to the team. It’s an ahead-of-schedule return for Carlsson, who was expected to miss four to six weeks after sustaining a right MCL sprain against the Flames on December 21.
Carlsson will return to a top-six role centering a line with Adam Henrique and Troy Terry as he looks to continue his strong pre-injury play. The MCL sprain, plus some load management-related scratches, have limited him to 23 out of 42 games this year, during which he’s scored eight goals and seven assists while averaging over 18 minutes per contest.
The 19-year-old has been a pleasant surprise in terms of how well he’s translated to the NHL in his post-draft season. It wasn’t the most popular choice when Ducks GM Pat Verbeek selected Carlsson over Adam Fantilli at second overall in last year’s draft, but his two-way game has shined with solid production against other teams’ first and second lines. The Ducks’ 2-7-1 record in their last ten games without Carlsson is a solid bit of evidence of how important his minutes are to the team already. More recent injuries to Pavel Mintyukov and Trevor Zegras have exacerbated the team’s struggles, though.
Already 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds, Carlsson has two seasons remaining after this one on his entry-level contract, which carries a $950K cap hit.