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
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?