What will Larsson bring to Oilers?

We don’t see Eastern teams very often. Even when they were a perennial Cup contender the Devils were rarely a “must-see” team. They had elite players like Martin Brodeur, smooth skating Scott Niedermayer and punishing Scott Stevens. Their style of play rarely made them a team people lined up to see.

I watched six Devils games last year. Adam Larsson won’t wow you offensively, but he also won’t make wow-like defensive lapses either.

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Who does he play like? What are realistic expectations? Let’s discuss.

I spoke to someone who knows him well. Adam Oates was an assistant coach in New Jersey during Larsson’s rookie season, then left to be the head coach of Washington for two years, before returning to New Jersey for the 2014/2015 season.

“He is a minutes guy. He can play a lot of minutes. He’s good. He’s pretty smart. He needs to sense confidence from the coaches. He’s one of those guys you can’t yell at. You can challenge him, for sure, and teach him, but he needs to feel the love from the coaches,” said Oates.

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What differences did he see in his game from his rookie year compared to 2014/2015, when Oates returned to New Jersey?

“He was stronger, but I had to re-visit one change we’d made with him as a rookie. When I had him as a rookie he had a stick that was the wrong lie. I raised his lie, got him more standing up and he started to move better. After his rookie year he got a stick deal, and went back to his old stick and for the next two years he was up and down in the minors.

“We had a talk, and he agreed to use the stick we wanted him to use as a rookie. It was a higher stick with more of a toe curve and he had his best season. He scored 24 points, none on the PP, and he played with Andy Greene,” said Oates.

What should Oilers fans expect from him?

“He’s competitive. His skating is fine. He thinks the game well, and he has good instincts on when to move the puck. He’ll move it quickly when needed, and he’ll hold onto it instead of trying to force a pass. In New Jersey the system allowed him to be a top-pairing. In the right system he is a top-pairing guy, but you have to have that system,” said Oates.

We will see how he performs in Edmonton. It is difficult to compare his stats or advanced stats from New Jersey and project how he will fare in Edmonton, because the system and teammates are very different.

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The Oilers desperately need a right-shot at the top on their PP, because all of their half wall players, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, shoot left. Larsson has only played a combined 51 PP minutes the past four seasons. He won’t be looked at to quarterback the first unit, but could he play on the second unit?

“I think he can be a PP guy, but I believe I can teach most guys to play on the PP (laughs). Edmonton is looking for a right shot at the top of their PP. He has good instincts. I believe in time he could be a decent second unit option,” Oates.

COMPARING TO CURRENT PLAYERS

Compare

Comparisons should only be a guideline. It is almost impossible to project how well a player can become. Some players take longer to develop, while others can succeed in the NHL right away. Larsson is like many players, however: his progression has had a few bumps in the road.

After his rookie year, he spent the next two seasons splitting time between the AHL (66 games) and the NHL (63 games). His past two seasons he was paired predominantly with Andy Greene (1943 of 2500 EV minutes played with Greene) on the top pairing in New Jersey.

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He hasn’t put up much offence in his career. He has 9-60-69 in 274 games (0.25 points per game) during his first five seasons. He only has four PP points, all of them coming in his rookie season. He has been mainly an EV and SH player. He debuted in the NHL in his 19 year old year. 

Victor Hedman

This would be the best-case comparable. He debuted in the NHL in his 19 year old season.

He is two years older than Larsson. He was the second pick in 2009, while Larsson when fourth in 2011.

Hedman has played 258 games in his first four years, scoring 16-73-89 points. He had 10 PP points in those 258 games. He averaged 0.34 PPG his first four seasons. He really took off in year five. He scored 13-42-55 in 75 games. He had 14 PP points and played in tough minutes.

Hedman scored 38 points in 59 games in 2015 and had 47 points in 78 games last year. Hedman is considered by many to be one of the few legit #1 defenders in the NHL.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

If Larsson becomes Vlasic Oilers fans should be thrilled. He was an NHL rookie at 19.

Vlasic’s
first five seasons saw him produce 18-92-110 in 389 games. He did have
41 PP points. He had 12 PPP his first year, five the next, then 21 in
his third season, but he only had one and two PPP in his fourth and fifth
seasons. Vlasic’s PP minutes reflect his point totals. From his rookie
year to his fifth season his PP minutes/year were 186, 76, 241, 110 and
69.

He produced 69 EV points and 41 PP points in his first five
season. During his last five years he’s produced 101 EV points and 15 PP
points. He hadn’t played much on the PP after year three until this
season when he produced 10 points in 134 PP minutes. He is mainly an
excellent EV and SH defender, but if given an opportunity he can
produce on the man advantage.

Niklas Hjalmarsson

He is an excellent defensive defender. He plays tough minutes and mainly on EV and PK. He made his pro debut at 20 in the AHL, and spent two seasons in the AHL (97 games) with a few stints in NHL (34 games).

He became an NHL regular in 2009/2010 and played top-four minutes as a rookie. He was paired mainly with Brian Campbell when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. He has been a solid defensive D-man. He only played 45 total PP minutes his first five years.

He produced 12-66-78 in 353 games in his first five seasons. He produced 0.23 PPG. Even with Duncan Keith in Chicago, Hjalmarsson often faced the tough minutes. He’s an excellent defensive defender, who can produce points at EV.

In 2013/2014 he had 26 EV/SH points, which was tied for 18th with Hampus Lindholm, Ryan Suter and Jacob Trouba. This past season he had 22 EV/SH points, only three less than Keith. And once again had him in the top-50 among points for D-men.

If Larsson is as solid defensively as Hjalmarsson and can continue to produce at EV, he’ll be a very solid defender.

It is difficult to say where his career will go. He’s on a different team, playing a different system with different players. Maybe he produces more points than his first five years suggest. We won’t know. It will be intriguing to see how his career unfolds.

PARTING SHOTS

Shots

  • Connor McDavid told Rob Tychkowski seeing Hall traded was difficult.

    “Change is exciting, but at the same time it’s upsetting to see a
    teammate, a dear friend and my roommate go. It’s a little bit of a
    different feeling right now.

    “I want to express thanks for all that he’s done for me because he’s
    done so much. I’ll never really know how I can repay him, or if I’ll
    ever be able to, for what he’s done for me this year. He’s a guy who took me under his wing right away. It’s hard to explain how much that means to me.”

    Hall helped McDavid transition to the NHL. Interesting how the most important player on the team, and arguably most important in the organization, values Hall’s character. If Hall made McDavid’s transition to pro hockey easier, the Oilers and their fans should be grateful for that alone.

  • JW, LT and many others wrote numerous articles on the struggles of Lauri Korpikoski this year, and today the Oilers bought him out. No doubt he had a tough year, and I wonder if this means Chiarellli plans to spend close to the salary cap. The Oilers will save $2 million in cap space this year, but they will now have $1 million dead space next season. Had they waived him and placed him in the minors they would saved $950,000 against the cap this year and had no dead space next year.
  • I asked Oates about the Hall/Larsson trade. “The Oilers needed D, but it cost them a lot. Hall can win games by himself for you. That is very important, especially in the playoffs,” said Oates.
  •  All arrows are pointing to Milan Lucic signing with the Oilers. I’m very curious to see what the money and length of contract is. It will cause much debate, especially if it is a six or seven year deal with a hefty cap hit.
  • I had NHL coach text me this about Lucic. “He will rarely be the F1 (first forward) in on the forecheck due to his speed. That is my one concern for whoever signs him.” Food for thought.
  • If I had my choice I’d rather have Hall and Jason Demers for four years, than Larsson and Milan Lucic for five plus. I’d even take the Larsson for Hall trade, because it tries to address a major need. I just don’t see the reasoning in overpaying a winger in free agency, unless they are an elite winger like Marian Hossa.

Recently by Jason Gregor:   

  • Hall trade: It is based on Hope
  • Chiarelli needs to be cautious
  • Monday Musings: Chiarelli the grinder, draft age and more
  • Draft Day Two: Acquiring a D-man still alive
  • Draft rumblings and the Top-60
  • Dreams will be made this weekend
  • Buffalo is open for business
  • Live in Buffalo: Vegas, trades, the draft and be cautious of Lucic


      • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

        At least Kevin Lowe can relax that his number won’t be retired twice.

        I like the trade. Two big Swedes on the blue line together and we all don’t have to watch Taylor throw his toys around the sand box.

        Also bye bye Korpi,Gazdic,Klinkhammer,Glendenning, and we all pray Ferrence. Don’t let the door hit on the way out.

        Been wanting change for years and good or bad the deck is finally getting a good shuffle.

      • Heschultzhescores

        This trade looks like sabotage to me. You can’t tell me we couldn’t have gotten a better D-man than this. I say BS to “that’s the price you have to pay”. It is the price you have to pay, but not for an average, number 5 D-man. If it’s not sabotage, what else can it be? Nobody can be this dumb and achieve this level of hockey management…can they?

        • Ronr68

          Larsson is not a No.5 d-man. He plays 25 minutes a night against the other team’s top players. Finally we have someone who can play in the defensive zone. We have someone who can make an outlet pass and play the right side. Yeah, Hall was a steep price but how many under-sized wingers do we need?

        • Ronr68

          Larsson is not a No.5 d-man. He plays 25 minutes a night against the other team’s top players. Finally we have someone who can play in the defensive zone. We have someone who can make an outlet pass and play the right side. Yeah, Hall was a steep price but how many under-sized wingers do we need?

      • The bad luck combined with managers/owners tampering with draft picks is what has really sunk us… But really, Button saw Nuge as an ‘elite no. 1 center’ before the 2011 draft… And Yak was consensus to go number 1 the next year…
        What sucks is that had the oilers not picked first these two critical years, and instead somewhere in the top-4, dare I say we would have ended up with better players… But there are so many other factors…
        What’s REALLY sunk us is the complete inability to unearth useful players from later in the draft.

        • Captain McTowel

          And we now have both #4 picks from those two years… So we have the best of both worlds.. 1 and 4 from those drafts. Pretty good deal if you ask me.

      • Freud

        The Bruins bought out Seidenberg today.

        It was Chiarelli who got the Bruins into cap trouble. It was Chiarelli who then chose an older and more expensive Seidenberg over Boychuk as a means to solve the cap troubles he created in the first place.

        Explain to me why some continue to have confidence in a GM who was fired for mismanagement and who has a history of evaluating defencemen like this?

      • fran huckzky

        I read an interview with Ken Daneyko in which he stated that Larrson is every bit as good as Travis Hamoni, Not many people have a better grasp on eastern conference dmen than Daneyko. If his opinion is correct,I say we got full value for Taylor.

        • DoubleDIon

          Ken Daneyko is nicknamed “Mr. Devil.” He also works for the team as it’s broadcaster. He’s hardly an impartial guy. The numbers say differently. Look at their hero charts. Hamonic is quite a bit better defensively and slightly better offensively.

          • fran huckzky

            I am aware that Daneyko is a Devil but he is tied almost as closely to Eedmonton as New Jersey. You can choose bto discount his opinion and I can choose to value it. He had no reason to pump Larrson’s tires after the deal was done.

      • Nugent-Bagkins93

        Larsson was a mediocre D on a mediocre team. Imagine this guy playing for us…

        My prediction: 3 G 7 A -21

        I think this guy could be real bad…Corsi was only 43 on NJ

        • Seanaconda

          You really think he will put up less numbers than when he was with the Devils? Look at their roster the forwards were awful. Cammy missed like half the season and I think he put up the most points.

          Even if the oilers deploy him the same way the Devils did I can’t see him not putting up more points.
          .edit whoops it was Palmei. Still I’m pretty sure they were pretty close to the bottom of the nhl for scoring.

        • madjam

          Well Larsson wont be having almost exclusively the Neutral Zone Trap style of play like he did in Jersey . He’ll get exposed out West here just like Fayne had . Oates figured he might struggle with confidence issues and i’d be inclined to think he will be severely tested here . I have doubts he’ll be near the player Chia thinks he will be .He fits good in the Trap , but how well will he do without the help of the Trap is the question ?

        • I'm too tall for this @#$%

          Yeah, Fayne also showed very well in NJ playing in their system with Andy Green. He was one of the darlings of free agency that summer and the Oilers were fortunate enough to overpay for him.

          This is my fear here, that the gap in skill and ability between Hall and Larsen is even greater than we think it is. I mean we’ve been over confident about an Andy Green partner before….

      • bcoil

        Denise Potvin ( a pretty good defence man in his time ) said this AM on the NHL channel that NJ will win the trade for the next two years but after that and over the long haul the oilers easily win this trade .He was VERY high on this defence man.

      • Ivan Drago

        I was a fan of PC. I may still be I dont know. I want SO bad to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe in him. He has now imo got a list of moves I question. He will go down as a genius or a bad gambler.

        -Reinhart Trade
        -Sekera signing in term and dollar. Imo because he was prob the best Ufa dman avail that was the cost of getting him. But i think its questionable.
        -Trading Hall, this move is the bold everyone was crying for. Today we lost the trade bad. In a yr we hopefully dont feel the same. Or can at least stomach it. For this to happen isnt so much on Larson as the team. They need to win. Full stop that is the only thing that will take the sting away.
        -IF we do sign Lucic, for 7 yrs at anything over 6 per with a full NMC.
        -Lastly keeping MacT and Howson around irritates me.

      • Hockey Buddha

        Good article, Jason. One of the first things I thought about after the trade was how it would make the face of the franchise feel. He’s been Hall’s roommate for a full season. It has to be a very difficult time for him. I’m glad that your article touched on that.

        I’ve been thinking about the fan reaction to Hall being traded. The reaction has been intensely emotional. Edmonton really has tremendous, passionate fans who love their team. For many years now Taylor Hall has exemplified what fans love about the team.

        I feel a certain amount of empathy for Taylor Hall as well. He did take the trade personally. He shouldn’t have, but he did, and it’s unfortunate. This was a trade to address a major team need. I’m certain that it has more to do with New Jersey’s ask and the value of talented, young RHD, and Hall’s relative value than it does with anything lacking in Taylor Hall’s game or character.

        I’m a little annoyed with some of the speculation that Hall was a problem, a cancer, or a divisive force. He never gave any reason to believe that he was. He was always a polished speaker and ambassador for the team. If there were any concerns about this, the team would not have made Taylor Hall Connor McDavid’s roommate. That is the most obvious counterpoint to any silly speculation about Taylor Hall’s character.

        Hall always said the right thing despite what had to be an often soul-crushing experience for him. Despite season-upon-season of losing, he always worked exceptionally hard to improve his play and to do his best for the Oilers. On many nights he carried the team on his back. In many respects he was a consummate Edmonton Oiler.

        This trade had nothing to do with Taylor Hall lacking anything as a player or person. It had to do with a serious organizational need. Adam Larsson helps to address that need.

        As hard as it is to lose Taylor Hall, this is an key hockey move that–in Adam Larsson–gives the Oilers a dimension that it has sorely lacked for many years. Edmonton’s fans and players absolutely deserve a return to respectability. Oiler fans and players deserve a return to playoff hockey.

        If a couple of things break for the Oilers in free agency in the next few days, the make up of this team could be very compellingly different, and playoffs could become a reasonable expectation for this team.

        Edmonton is an electric city when its hockey team makes the playoffs. It’s a magic the city–the fans and the players–deserve to experience.

        I’m hoping the next couple of days break right for Chiarelli and that he can fill some of its remaining roster holes. I’m pleased that Adam Larsson is an Oiler. He’s a good player and Edmonton fans are astute enough to recognize his value and importance to the team. I think it’s clear that Larsson won’t be overly flashy, but he’ll be effective and that’s what counts. He’s already a top pairing defenseman, and he’s still in the process of developing.

      • YEGFan

        What people describe Adam Larsson as in these comments has no basis in reality.

        Stats suggest a slightly worse defensively Mark Fayne that puts up 5-10 more points a season.

        He literally took over Fayne’s role on New Jersey’s blueline, and as a younger player has done a slightly worse job. So far he is showing nothing more than being an OK top 4 getting carried on the first pair by Greene.

        If this was a free agent signing everyone would say: “A decent bet and he fills a desperate need in our top 4. Good job Chiarelli but more needs to be done.” People justifying Larsson as good return for Hall are delusional. The players he’s compared to in this article all have superior accomplishments to him and all projected to be better than he does. It’s true though, he could exceed expectations…

        He has done nothing to earn the confidence people are showing in him. Hopefully, for some reason, his performance so far is not an indication of his performance in the future.

        I’m being harsh on Larsson which isn’t totally fair. He is a decent player getting paid fairly at $4.1M, that’s not useless. It sucks that he is being treated as a franchise pillar when he has done nothing to suggest that’s a good idea.

      • oilerjed

        I asked Oates about the Hall/Larsson trade. “The Oilers needed D, but it cost them a lot. Hall can win games by himself for you. That is very important, especially in the playoffs,” said Oates.

        I did not witness this aspect of Hall. He is a very good player but there were very few times when he took over the game for more then a couple of shifts.

        And a total of 22 GWGs in 381 games also leads me to believe that this is not entirely true.

      • OILFANMEXICO

        Why is it so many people who claim they are Oilers Fans, complain and are so damn negative 90% of the time? Now some are already predicting Larsson to be bust before he even suits up with us! Honestly, I wish we had the ability to personally block all comments from “That specific Crowd”.

        My scroll wheel is wearing out

      • Huey Hewitt

        Hall is great player. We got a top pair D in return albeit not a big name one. Important to see what else unfolds. If after all is said and done and the oilers ice a better team in the coming season then this trade will make sense. Chai has to back it up with his next moves. It will be clear this time next year if he has effed up.

      • Shameless Plugger

        We “lost” the trade when you compare it player for player. If you want to look at it that way. But in this case I don’t think you can do that. I’d rather have a right shooting defenceman who will most certainly crunch up minutes at a decent clip than keep Taylor Halls great 5v5 production.

        Why?

        Because where has keeping the same guys and just hoping they improve taken the Oilers? The basement that’s where.

        We have an abundance of forward skill yet not much in the form of right side defenders who can you know……..defend!

        This trade addresses the most glaring need for the last ten years. The ability to keep the puck out of our net. For that reason coupled with having tremendous depth at the top 6 positions on forward, I can get behind this deal.

        I don’t hate Hall or think he’s a bad player. I just think Chia addressed an area of supreme weakness and Hall was the price.

        How many people on here can make a real evaluation on Adam Larsson? My guess is less than 1% have seen him play other than when he plays against the oilers. The proof will be in the pudding. I’m just not gonna jump off the cliff yet.

        Go Oilers Go!

      • Greg McDavid

        Notice also that Hedman plays on a much more offensive team than Larsson did. It is quite possible that Larsson could begin to put up comparable points if he is given some powerplay time. He has a bullet of a shot that they could use from the point and he would be a great defensive option to minimize short handed goals, which the Oilers have struggled with at times.