Potential No. 1 overall NHL pick Adam Larsson is confident he can carry on Sweden's tradition of turning out top NHL defencemen.
Larsson, 18, who will likely be one of the first three choices in the NHL draft on June 24, wears the same No. 5 of Nicklas Lidström and does not shy away from putting himself in the same sentence with the future Hockey Hall of Famer. (It is kind of inevitable after all.)The Skelleftea, Sweden, native made great strides in his draft season, helping his hometown Skelleftea AIK reach the Elitserian final. He also benefited from being part of a blueline corps that includes two older NHL first-round choices, New York Rangers prospect Tim Erixon and Ottawa Senators hopeful David Rundblad.
"It helped me lot," Larsson says of playing with the two 2009 first-rounders. "They know what to do and they also told me a lot about what to expect [with the draft] and everything."
Larsson high-roads it when asked about the possibility of being the first defenceman taken No. 1 since 2006 ("Of course it would be a big thing but I won't be disappointed if I'm not"). There is a strong chance he might return to Skelleftea next season as a 19-year-old before debuting in the NHL, although compatriot Victor Hedman jumped directly to
Larsson is set apart by his grace in all game situations. While it's important for observers not to have expectations for him that scrape the sky, he does play with a certain poise that complements his ruggedness. At the world junior in Buffalo at Christmastime, that trait was evident even when the 6-foot-2, 209-pounder did small jobs, like making the first pass to get Team Sweden out of its own zone or getting a puck deep into the offensive zone to help his forwards start a cycle. He says that maturity has carried over while meeting with NHL scouts and GMs this week in Toronto.
1. There could be a record number of Swedes selected in Round 1, topping the six taken in 2009. Why is Sweden such an effective producer of hockey talent?
"We have good coaches back there and everything around hockey is big. I think it is pretty much the same as here [Canada]."
2. Have teams have been asking if you feel if you're ready to play in the NHL next season?
"Yes, of course, but it will be up to the team that I go to and what their plans are for me."
3. Who do you model your game after?
"I would say [Detroit Red Wings captain] Nicklas Lidström. I think he's great. We play similar styles."
4. Is there one part of your game that you would like to improve?
"I need to improve my shot. I don't think it's too good. It's one thing I try to work on b back home."
5. Has anyone given you an idea of what to expect with the fitness testing at the combine?
"Actually, I tested back home in Sweden so I will be prepared. It's different doing it front of people."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Getty Images).