CORAL SPRINGS — When the Florida Panthers were seeking a full-time bottom pair defenseman last season, Lucas Carlsson stepped up to the plate.
He started 2021-22 in the AHL, putting up six points in eight games. An injury to Markus Nutivaara opened up a spot for Florida’s crop of young defensemen and he was given the call.
Florida never seemed to look back once he got his chance in the lineup. Up until the trade deadline that was.
Carlsson had three goals and nine points in 40 games before the Panthers brought in Robert Hagg and Ben Chiarot at the trade deadline.
With the two trade deadline acquisitions now gone — along with ex-star defenseman MacKenzie Weegar — Carlsson now has a big opportunity in front of him.
”I want to be able to take a big step this year,” Carlsson said. “I just have to play the way I can and be ready.”
He will likely get his chance to take the next step alongside a familiar defense partner in Brandon Montour.
“Everything is about playing a lot of games together, and we did that last year,” Carlsson said. “We know each other well. I know what he is good at, he knows what I am good at. He is a very good skater so when he is flying up the ice, I just have to feed him the pucks.”
The 6-foot, 189-pound defenseman has also shown that two-way element to his game.
He often jumped into the rush and made plays happen in the offensive zone while using his smooth skating ability to get back on defense in transition.
”It’s really important to [have that versatility on defense], especially in this league,” he said. “It’s a very fast league.”
Carlsson spent 59 percent of his minutes alongside Montour last year as he found his footing in South Florida.
The 25-year-old defenseman was traded to Florida back in April 2021 in a deal that sent Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgstrom and Riley Stillman to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Nearly a year and a half later, he has settled in to life in Sunrise.
”It feels like home,” Carlsson said. “I feel more comfortable this year and I’m excited to get the season started. It should be a fun season.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS PRESEASON
Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers
Where, When: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise; Thursday, 7 p.m.
Tickets: CLICK HERE
2022 Preseason — Sept. 26: Florida 4, @Nashville 3 (OT); @Nashville 4, Florida 0. Sept. 29: Carolina 5, @Florida 2. Saturday: @Carolina 4, Florida 3. Thursday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m
Regular Season Opener: Oct. 13 at New York Islanders