Adam Larsson Could Mimick Victor Hedman’s Success
When Adam Larsson was drafted fourth overall in 2011, there was a lot of hype surrounding him, and rightfully so. It was the second time in three years that a Swedish defenseman went in the top-five, with Victor Hedman preceding him in 2009. Larsson, however, hasn’t translated all of his success into the NHL, but that could change very soon.
Like Hedman, Adam Larsson jumped straight into the NHL the year after he was drafted. He played in 65 games, registering 18 points. The Devils went 48-28-6 that year, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, but fell to the Los Angeles Kings. Since then, Larsson has spent time in both the AHL with Albany and the NHL with the Devils, and now has 51 points in 192 career games. He was a healthy scratch a few times this past season, but that could be attributed to the poor management by coach Peter DeBoer, who is no longer with the organization. In between all the cracks, Larsson still earned a six year, 4.16 million per contract, which is very similar to what Victor Hedman got in 2011 (4 million per).
Let’s focus in on the first three years of Hedman’s career in comparison to Larsson’s first three years. Hedman played in 214 games over that three year span, and had 69 points. This pace is ahead of Larsson, who had 27 points in 128 games, but the track record could indicate that he’s in store for a big breakout season. Hedman’s fourth year (2012-2013) was a big turning point, when he was almost on a .50 point-per-game pace in a full season. Larsson’s fourth year, this past season, was at just about .40 points-per-game, and he was severely underused at times.
Adam Larsson is still miles behind Victor Hedman, but he has the possibility to become the top-four defenseman the Devils envisioned him to be still. He turns 23 years old in November, and he still has the best years ahead. Defensemen generally take longer to develop than forwards, and it sometimes doesn’t happen until a new system or coach comes into play, which is exactly what is happening in New Jersey. The old Lamoriello and DeBoer regime is coming down, and Ray Shero and John Hynes are there now. Hynes took Wilkes-Barre to the AHL playoffs all five years of his tenure, and his style is perfect for the Devils. He still preaches defensively minded hockey, but he doesn’t limit his forwards or defenseman from pitching in on the offense. That mix might be all it takes to ignite a spark in some of New Jersey’s struggling players, including Larsson.
If he continues on his pace in development, the Devils could have themselves a steal on their hands in a few years, even if they have to go to the bank after its all said and done.