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The Malik Report

Adam Larsson, the next Nicklas Lidstrom?

This Sunday morning’s usual crop of notebooks generally focus upon the ramifications of the general managers’ meetings, from Larry Brooks’ lambaste of the NHL’s new concussion protocol to the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont’s “state-of-the-present-game’s safety-via-an-alumnus’s assessment notebook, Terry Frei’s belief that more “bravery” is needed from progressive-minded GM’s, a discussion of the new stanchion pads which will be installed in most rinks next season from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo and even a few comments about concussions from Mathieu Schneider and an update on the NHLPA’s stance on visor use via the Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson...

But the really intriguing comments of the morning come from the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, whose slate of Hockey World (and “More Hockey World”) offerings include both one Oiler’s take on concussions and a scouting report regarding one of the most intriguing draft prospects to come along in quite some time—in a player who’s being explicitly compared to Nicklas Lidstrom. Matheson hopes that the Oilers will draft Adam Larsson for good reason:

The Oilers really need Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson. The 18-year-old, six-foot-three, 210-pounder plays for Skelleftea AK in the Swedish Elite League. Sweden’s national team coach Par Marts swears Larsson is better than Nick Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings was at the same age. Nobody’s saying Larsson is going to win the Norris Trophy six times, but we’re talking today.

“I believe this is so and I coached Nicklas from when he was 16 to 21 years,” Marts said when he was in Pittsburgh scouting Oilers forwards Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi for his country’s world championship team.

“He’s a terrific, terrific talent,” Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said of Larsson.
...
Larsson is playing more than 20 minutes a game in the playoffs for Skelleftea. He’s a defenceman, not a centre, not a winger, so he can be counted on to play 30 shifts a game in the NHL.  He was in the Swedish Elite League at age 16. Only two other defencemen -longtime NHLer Calle Johansson and 2009 Tampa Bay Lightning pick Victor Hedman -can say that. Larsson has been playing against players who are eight, 10 years older than him for some time, and on the blue-line -a tough position in any league.

“He was in our top pair and on our top power play ... and he was only 16,” said Oilers farmhand Brad Moran, who played with Larsson in Skelleftea last season.

“Physically, he’s there, he’s very mature for his age. Mentally, if he made mistakes, he understood and got better,” said Moran. “He’s a really good kid. He’s pretty quiet, but he loves to play. He’d practice with us in the morning and at night he’d be on a sheet playing shinny. That’s something, as a pro, you don’t see a lot of.”

If ever there was a player who I’d hope the Wings would attempt to trade up to draft, it’s Larsson. It’s not going to happen, of course, but the Wings will have to make some sort of move eventually to find a replacement or three for Lidstrom, and while I’d expect the Wings to both add an elite free agent and cross their fingers about Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl, every once in a great while, a prospect comes around who even raises my eyebrows. Larsson’s that prospect.

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The Lidstrom quote had been out there for some time. Surprised that anyone would be writing about it now.

Larsson would be a fit for several of the potential top five teams. The Oilers are one such team, but the Avs and the Islanders are also potential destinations for Larsson.

I have heard rumors that Edmonton is more interested in Ryan Nugent Hopkins as his speed and playmaking skill would be a perfect fit for the talented wingers the Oilers have drafted in recent years.

The Avs, like the Oilers, have serious blue line issues. Also like the Oilers, however, they have several interesting defensive prospects. Both teams also have traded away their leading power forwards, making Gabriel Landeskog an appealing alternative.

For the Islanders, however, Larsson is head and shoulders above the possible selections in June. Some Islander fans have agitated for Landeskog as a power forward to protect John Tavares, but the re-signings of Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau indicate that the Islander top line is set for next year. Down the road, the Islanders have Nino Niederreiter, Anders Lee, and Kirill Petrov as options for top line muscle.

RD Larsson would be a perfect compliment to LD Mark Streit and they would be an ideal top pair above LD Andrew MacDonald and RD Travis Hamonic. The elite veteran Streit would be an ideal mentor for Larsson and the four would quickly become one of the NHL’s elite top four defensive units.

At this point, the Isles appear unlikely to finish any lower than #28 in the standings. They would have to rely on Edmonton drafting Hopkins and Colorado drafting Landeskog, both distinct possibilities. If Ottawa finishes in the #28 slot, the Isles would have to rely on Ottawa, with its strong core of defensive prospects and need for a top six center, drafting Couturier.

Of course, that leaves out the possibility of a lottery flip. That has not happened since 2007—when the Hawks went from the #5 slot to the #1 slot and drafted Patrick Kane—so it can be argued that we are due.  Given what might be taken for tanking by the Oilers and Avs as opposed to the much more competitive air in the Islander room since their November nadir, that might be an outcome the hockey gods would favor.

Then there is a numerology thing. For the past two years, the Islanders’ top pick has had to shed his preferred junior uniform number because it had been held by a retired dynasty immortal. Tavares had been #19 before having to transpose Bryan Trottier’s old number to his current #91 and Niederreiter had been #22 before ceding Mike Bossy’s designation for #25. Larsson’s number is #5, same as The Captain, Denis Potvin. Yes, Larsson as the Islander top pick would seem to be an arrangement the hockey gods would favor.

Posted by BCISLEMAN from Terrace, BC CANADA on 03/20/11 at 11:07 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Sweden’s national team coach Par Marts swears Larsson is better than Nick Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings was at the same age. Nobody’s saying Larsson is going to win the Norris Trophy six times, but we’re talking today.

Yeah, sure.  Whatever.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 03/20/11 at 09:16 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.