2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. E1 Adam Larsson

It’s not often that a defenseman goes first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. After all, forwards are often more valuable to a team than defensemen, specifically when there is a possibility of a player like Sean Couturier or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins becoming a perennial 90-point scorer.

But when scouts are mentioning the possibility of a certain prospect becoming the next Nicklas Lidstrom, teams are going to stop and reconsider.

“I don’t remember anyone at his age coming into the Swedish elite league and moving right onto the first line, playing so much and so well,” said Hakan Andersson, head European scout for the Detroit Red Wings, of Skelleftea HC star defenseman Adam Larsson. “And that he did it as a defenseman is so much tougher. I don’t know that he’s better with the puck than [Erik] Karlsson or [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson, but he’s a notch above them with his physical game. I like him [as a prospect] even more than Hedman. And everything I hear from people who know him is that he’s a first-rate character guy.”

Although his offensive statistics don’t blow anyone away (nine points this season in 37 games, 17 points last season in 49 games), it’s his all-around game that impresses the scouts. After all, Pavel Datsyuk scored just eight points in 24 games in his draft year in Russia’s Elite League, yet has risen to become one of the best players in the world.

“This guy’s puck game, power play-type game, is way ahead of Hedman’s at this age,” one scout from an Eastern Conference team told NHL.com. “His puck game has always been the same. He’s a cool customer again out there. That’s his forte. He just never panics. He is just such a big, thick kid already at his age.”

“He is a leader on and off the ice,” NHL Director of European Scoring Goran Stubb told NHL.com. “A big, strong, all-round top prospect who we will most probably rank as No. 1 in Europe. He has excellent hockey sense, size and strength. He is dominating the game when on ice. He has a very high overall skill level, is a great playmaker and uses his size and strength very well. In other words, a more or less complete package and a new Hedman.”

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-handed shooter is a safe bet to at least be drafted third overall, at worst. His skating is among the best in the world, while his size and hockey sense contribute to his amazing defensive play. He’ll never be leading NHL defensemen in scoring, but he’s solid enough to confidently lead a power play unit, in addition to challenging NHL superstars for the annual plus/minus lead. He could be a franchise defenseman for any team that drafts him.

“He’s real smart,” said former teammate Magnus Paajarvi in an interview with NHL.com. “One time he’s there, the next time he’s another way. You can’t (predict) him, he’s all over the place. He’s very good with the puck, never makes a mistake. Great on the power play, great in (the penalty kill) box, as well. I think he’s going to be a real good defenseman in the future.

“I believe Adam Larsson is a little bit better with puck handling, but Victor Hedman has the physique, he’s bigger and he uses that to take the puck away from the opponents. Adam is a little bit better on the power play, better with the puck, but Victor is better defensively.”

“I like him for the completeness of his game,” NHL Network analyst Craig Button said. “He’s a guy that can play defensively. He’s got the size and poise defensively, but offensively, he knows how to create chances. He’s got a great shot, he can pass the puck and jump into the attack. He can make good decisions and, for an 18-year-old defenseman, sometimes you’re looking for that player who has to make better decisions. I really like the way he gets himself into position defensively and offensively, and he can control the game. Those types of players, who can play a lot of minutes, are hard to find.”

“Physically, he’s there, he’s very mature for his age. Mentally, if he made mistakes, he understood and got better,” said Edmonton Oilers prospect Brad Moran in an interview with Edmonton Journal writer Jim Matheson. “He’s a really good kid. He’s pretty quiet, but he loves to play. He’d practice with us in the morning and at night he’d be on a sheet playing shinny. That’s something, as a pro, you don’t see a lot of.”

Fortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, they might be seeing a lot of him over the next decades if he becomes the league’s next first overall pick.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

One Response to 2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. E1 Adam Larsson

  1. BCISLEMAN says:

    Hard to say where Larsson will go. He could go anywhere from first to fifth, although he may be the best athlete in this draft. If he does not go first–and I suspect he will not as I believe EDM will draft Nugent-Hopkins–he will likely sink to at least fourth if not fifth. Interesting that you quote Button. In his latest mock draft, I believe he has Larsson at 8th which is absurd.

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