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Is Johan Larsson the Real Deal?

Perhaps the most over-looked player through Traverse City, Training camp and the three preseason games for the Buffalo Sabres has been Johan Larsson. While the majority of fans may have been paying attention to the two first round picks from 2012 and the stellar 2013 draftee’s on the blueline, Larsson has quietly been going along making a splash.

A lot of fans don’t know what to expect out of Johan Larsson. He’s not a player drafted by Darcy Regier and his group of scouts and he wasn’t even a first round draft pick. While the majority of excitement surrounded Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, Larsson has been a forgotten piece of the Sabres future. The Sabres acquired Larsson in the Jason Pominville trade at last years trade deadline, a bold move that signaled a new era was ahead in Buffalo. There is an air of mystery

Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

surrounding the 6 foot tall Swedish forward, but make no mistake the kid came to play and is currently a lock to centre the Sabres third line.

Johan Larsson is one of only two players to have suited up for all three of the Sabres preseason games thus far, which means Ron Rolston must have some big plans for the kid. In Buffalo’s 5-2 win last night, he was a major contributor scoring 2 goals and winning 71% of his face-offs. 71% of face-offs?! Wait didn’t the Sabres struggle with face-offs last season? Perhaps they have found a cure to their face-off trouble’s. But perhaps the most impressive thing about Larsson throughout the preseason has nothing to do with the score sheet, but instead his versitility. Through the three games he’s played in, he has been paired with three different sets’ of wingers and has found success with them all. From Corey Tropp and Ville Leino to Girgensons and Drew Stafford and even Joel Armia and Tyler Ennis, Larsson has had to find instant chemistry with new linemates every game and so far he hasn’t disappointed.

It’s beginning to look like Larsson will be sticking around in blue and gold longer than just the preseason and so far there’s no reason to believe he wont succeed in the regular season. After the first preseason game in Montreal, Rolston reflected on how he wanted to see Larsson bring more to the table and up his game, so far he’s made all the right adjustments.

For a young kid (21), Larsson is another very mature player. He knows what his role is as a third line centre, he likes to hit people and he doesn’t force the offence- yet it just seems to follow him around. He does all the little things like backchecking harder than forechecking and making crisp passes that make a coach happy. He could easily be a solid 40 point guy who contributes about 60% of face-off wins. Based on everything Larsson has shown the Sabres, there is no reason to doubt that he’ll start the year off in Buffalo.

What do you think: Will Johan Larsson be in the Buffalo Sabres opening night roster? Is the Swedish kid the real deal?

Topics: Buffalo Sabres, Johan Larsson, NHL

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  • Jes

    Yes I believe he is ready. We got to cut some of the fat from this roster. I am not sure who we’d deal or buyout? Maybe try and deal Stafford and Kaleta in a deal together. I say Girgensons, Grigorenko, Pysyk, McNabb, Larsson, Ristolainen, and Hackett are all ready to enter the NHL on a permanent basis. Armia isn’t on the list because I believe he isn’t ready for the big time this year maybe good for a couple call ups this year. Ruhwedel and Zadorov I believe are still a year away from being a key contributors.

  • erico

    I love him and all the kids who are playing fantastic. After this 2 game weekend against the leafs will pretty much solidify where every player left in camp is at. Larssons versatily is a huge factor in becoming the 3rd line center. as players get injured, call ups will most likely be playing around larsson. A few more tweaks and i say our roster is pretty much set. Armia may keep his first line job depending on how he performs this weekend. i would love Foligno to make chemistry with Grigorenko and Leino. Ennis-larsson-Stafford rounds out the 3rd. Yes that leaves Steve Ott on the 4th line but isnt that the style of play he brings to the table? and what does that say about our depth if w have a guy with atleast some scoring touch on the 4th line. i see Girgensons and kaleta on that line.

    I understand theres not a lot of room for now. give it time and i see Regier possibly dealing Stafford. perhaps even Ennis as well. Kaleta is just a pest. Id much rather fill that spot with a Scoring pest. i See Kaleta being moved and possibly Mccormick taking that spot

    • Jes

      Putting Girgensons on a line with Kaleta is not a great idea. If that’s what it’s gonna be I’d rather just have Girgensons in the AHL on the first line. The amount of time he will spend a night on ice and playing with a guy like Kaleta will just stun his growth as a player IMO. You probably seen what happened with Grigorenko last year. 3rd line is the lowest I’d want to put Girgensons.

      Right now I’d try and deal Stafford and Kaleta for the best possible return (Hopefully a pick and a prospect.) That is the only way we can make room for the younger guys. Leino is also a buyout candidate. For now leave one of Larsson or Girgensons in the AHL; at least until we can make some room on one of the top 3 lines instead of just using them for 2-4 minutes a night.

      Larsson and Girgensons can also play wing correct?

      • erico

        ok girgensons can play top line minutes in the A until stafford is dealt. Ennis is small but would excell on a line with big bodies like Larsson and Girgensons. Leino hasnt proved much but he has fought injuries. him and Grigorenko have amazing chemistry and they might do some damage this year

        • Matt Nolan

          I beleive sabres will have either Larson or girginsons on the team come day one armia should start in Rochester with the other one tbh I don’t think stafford has many buyers nor Kaleta we have tons of players on career years and as for your buy out leino if they were gonna do that they would have I like ville he could surprise I really feel you should calm down while its cool they’re doing we’ll its pre season these guys may need another year to develop to full timers in order to have consistent play maybe less than a year just know October is different that’s when we’ll start to know