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