Feb 17, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Johan Larsson (47) against the Detroit Red Wings at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Red Wings 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Can Johan Larsson Crack the Buffalo Sabres 2013 Lineup?

When the Buffalo Sabres traded away captain Jason Pominville, they were looking to acquire not only some draft picks, but also a future top 6 forward and Darcy did just that. Regier acquired Johan Larsson, a 5’10”, 200 LB Swedish forward. At 21 years of age and with Buffalo in an obvious rebuild, one may beg the question “will Johan Larsson make the Buffalo Sabres opening day roster”?

After being drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Johan Larsson spent a couple of seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League, where he would have an impressive 2011-12 season recording 36 points in 49 games. Larsson would then make the transition to North American soil, where he would spend the majority of the season with the Houston Aeros, and finish off the year with the Rochester Americans.

The Buffalo Sabres are in need of a solid 2 way forward, as they struggled in many games last year in their own end. The perfect solution to this problem may be Johan Larsson. Not only does Larsson have great vision of the ice, he’s always thinking defense first, which is a huge plus for the Sabres. Versatility is another key with Larsson. Whether he is on the wing or lined up at centre, Larsson is tough on the puck and also has a nice set of hands, which will be crucial for the Sabres in both 5 on 5 and on the power play.

Another plus with Johan Larsson is his effectiveness on the penalty kill. With Houston last season in the AHL, Larsson was one of their most effective penalty killers. You can never have enough of these types of players at the NHL level. Although Larsson isn’t the biggest player on the ice, he will most certainly not back down from throwing his weight around; however, for Larsson to be a more effective player, he must throw his weight around on a more consistent basis, but that will come with time.

If Ron Rolston can find the appropriate line mates for Johan Larsson, he will have a fine rookie campaign. Last year in training camp, it was known that Ville Leino and Steve Ott had developed some instant chemistry before Leino missed a handful of games due to injury. Why not stick Larsson with Leino and Ott? Not only would this make for a solid 2nd-3rd line, it would also help Leino regain his scoring touch he had back in Philly. Larsson would also benefit from learning beside Ott, who is a very well respected man around the NHL.

The start of training camp is just weeks away, so let the countdown begin! Ron Rolston will have many difficult decisions when it comes down to the final roster. Whether Johan Larsson makes the squad or not will be one of the more intriguing stories come the start of the season. I personally believe Johan Larsson will make the opening day roster, and be an effective player on special teams, as there is a ton of upside to his game.

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