Any fool can see that Adam Larsson is a tough player for the Oilers to pass over at #1 overall. His wide range of skills and his size (6.03, 200) for this age is impressive.
Larsson’s scouting report reads like a fictional defensive character, smooth and controlled and never a spent force. ISS puts it nicely when saying “smooth and perfectly well rounded 2-way player with maturity well beyond his years.”
Adam Larsson could be a franchise defender, but even if he comes up short on that, it’s likely he’ll have a long and productive career.
If the Oilers were a more mature organization, I think Larsson would be a better draft prospect. If a club like Detroit selected Larsson, they could bring him along slowly, like the Habs did with Savard, Lapointe and Robinson. Some time in the minors, depth sorties at the NHL level and finally extended time in the top 4 blue.
The Oilers have no such luxury. Larsson is a plug and play and would no doubt stand out in the Oiler crowd on the backline. If the Oilers could be counted on to send Larsson to the AHL this fall, I’d like the idea of picking him with the top pick more; the reality is that Larsson would be in the linup opening night if Edmonton seleced him.
Central Scouting loves him: “Adam is one of the best skater’s in this year’s draft — he has excellent speed and mobility. He also has patient puck handling abilities and can surprise an opponent with a solid hit. His size and skating ability make him comparable with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.”
The director of European scouting for Central loves him: “Larsson played a big role on Skelleftea, which went as high as to the Swedish playoff Finals, so in a way, he’s ready, yes. He could play here (in 2011-12). I think what he wants really is having a big role when he comes over, so it’s perhaps better for him to stay one more year at home. It’s always in the individual. Some say it’s good to come over, others say it’s not good.”
I think he may spend another year in Sweden, depending on his drafting team. My guess is that he won’t go beyond New Jersey at #4, and would bet that RNH, Larsson, Landeskog and Couturier are all off the board by the time the Islanders pick at 5th overall.
I think there are two things that will keep the Oilers from picking Larsson at number one. First, as Bob Stauffer has been mentioning lately the track record for defensemen taken this high is not good; it takes them time to develop, their drafting team often becomes frustrated with the timeline and eventually sends them away. Call it the Chris Pronger syndrome.
Second, according to all reports next year’s blueline depth at the draft is historic. Grabbing the center this season makes sense if you believe a defender can be grabbed next season at a lower draft number, as it is unlikely the Oilers will pick 1st overall three years in a row.
In November we heard this from an NHL scout: “I think Adam Larsson plays a safer game (than TBay’s Hedman). I certainly think he has the same potential as Hedman. He’s every bit as good with the puck and he might be a touch tougher. Hedman is a little bigger, but they’re both unbelievably good skaters. I think I would take Larsson over Hedman if I could, based on what I’ve seen the last three years.”
Kyle Woodlief offered this in an interview with Kirk Luedeke: “I always had Hedman as a notch above him and even frankly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson I think has more long-term upside than Adam Larsson does because of his unbelievable skating ability. I know a lot of people over in Sweden think that he has that sort of (cornerstone) potential. I think that he’s going to be a really strong, solid defenseman in the NHL for a long time. But I don’t know if I would ever see him as a true number one defenseman. 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. But I don’t see him having that highest end that a Hedman or an Ekman-Larsson has.”
I don’t think we should be surprised if the Oilers select Adam Larsson at number one overall. As Bob McKenzie said this week, the big Swede has impressed some VIPs in the Oiler organization and he could be a huge part of the solution on defense.