Top AFL draft pick Walsh excites Carlton Blues faithful

AFL pre-season performances can be misleading but Carlton can take Sam Walsh's stellar early form to the bank.

The No.1 draft pick followed up an eye-catching practice match display against Hawthorn with a scintillating turn in the Blues' nine-point win over Essendon at Ikon Park on Thursday night.

As a junior, Walsh was lauded for his rare combination of talent, game sense, elite endurance, work ethic and hard-edged competitiveness.

He's shown enough of those qualities in his first two hitouts in AFL company to make it obvious to most observers that he'll not only play in the season-opener against Richmond, he'll play very well.

"If you'd seen the way he's applied himself from the moment he walked in - how he's trained, how he's had an appetite to learn and want to grow - the way he's performing isn't surprising," assistant coach Dale Amos said after the 15.10 (100) to 14.7 (91) win.

"He's got a real desperation to be a really good player, which is a great thing to have at the footy club.

"... He's been impressive and it wasn't just the game today, it's been his whole pre-season.

"Tonight's showing would suggest he's going to be a pretty strong candidate (for round one)."

VFL star Michael Gibbons also pencilled his name in on Carlton's round one team sheet.

The two-time JJ Liston Trophy winner kicked goals with his first two touches and finished with three, doing enough to suggest he is capable of filling the void left by retired goalsneak Matthew Wright.

"He's been hungry to get a spot on an AFL list for a long time ... everything would suggest he's doing everything he can to play relatively early in the season," Amos said.

"It's the work he's done which has culminated in him performing pretty well early."

Charlie Curnow (calf knock) and Dylan Shiel (corked thigh) didn't see out the game but neither injury is expected to be significant.