This is Adam Larsson. He is the number one rated prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry draft at this time. The Edmonton Oilers may have a shot at selecting him this summer, something that wasn’t in the conversation just days ago. Jacques Lemaire’s defensive hockey is starting to work in the New Jersey swamps, and it may benefit the Oilers in a big way. The question then becomes "will the Oilers take a defenseman #1 overall?"
In the history of the Edmonton Oilers, the club has used a first round selection on a defenseman 10 times. Barry Fraser drafted a defender in the first round 5 times between 1979 and 1985. He did extremely well, plucking Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey and Jeff Beukeboom during those drafts. Two more picks in the late ’80s, a couple in the ’90s (Stadjuhar, Descoteaux) and Alex Plante in 2007. That’s it, that’s all. 10 for the blue in the first round, compared to 2 goalies and 26 forwards. And more pertinent to our conversation, just one defenseman since 1997.
Let’s begin by discussing what kind of player Larsson is, and how he might be able to help out the Oilers.
The early scouting reports gush about Larsson’s wide range of skills, but tough marker Redline Report places Larsson in perspective:
- Woodlief: I see him more as a number two who’s going to eat a lot of minutes and be maybe a 40-45-point scorer. I don’t see him being that number one guy who’s going to come in and get 60-70 points and really lead a top power play. He makes a great first pass out of his own end. He plays solid, he plays physical. I’d like to see him, with his big body, to play physically a little more consistently along the walls and in front of the crease where he just kind of has a tendency to just lean on guys instead of getting aggressive with them. I think he’s a legitimate 15-year NHL player and number two guy who, on a poor team, will maybe play as a number one from time to time.
The source for that quote is here. I don’t really get the "#1" to "#2" distinction above and do believe Oiler fans would be thrilled with a guy who can play the position and deliver 40-45 points a season. But is that worth cashing your #1 pick for?
I’ve posted Gabriel Desjardins NHL equivalencices for forwards before, but haven’t posted much in terms of defensemen. Below are some of the top offensive NHLE numbers from the blue over the past few seasons. ALL of the numbers below are from each player’s draft season (per 82gp):
- Ryan Ellis (2009) 9-29-38
- Victor Hedman (2009) 10-21-31
- Drew Doughty (2008) 6-23-29
- Dmitri Kulikov (2009) 5-20-25
- Zack Bogosian (2008) 5-20-25
- Cam Fowler (2010) 4-21-25
- Michael Del Zotto (2008) 6-18-24
- Erik Karlsson (2008) 8-14-22
- Alex Pieterangelo (2008) 5-17-22
- Brandon Gormley (2010) 4-14-18
- Adam Larsson (2011) 2-16-18
- John Carlson (2008) 5-11-16
- Erik Gudbranson (2010) 1-13-14
- Luke Schenn (2008) 3-9-12
So I think we need to be clear about how much offense he’s going to deliver. Larsson is not going to be an impact offensive player ala Doughty based on what he’s delivering currently. There are all kinds of things that could send his numbers north: if he came to Edmonton and was used on the PP often then Larsson would likely outperform the estimate above. Having said that, offensively he looks like a guy who won’t play a lot on the top powerplay unit outside the peak period of his career.
He is a solid defensive player, physical and he can impact a game. The numbers suggest the strength of his game will be in his own end of the rink. I don’t think that’s what a team should pursue with the number one overall selection.