Saturday, April 28, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--C, Johan Larsson

Published by, 4-27-2018

Center--Johan Larsson
DOB:  July 25, 1992 (Age, 25)
Draft:  2010, 2nd round (56th overall) MIN
How acquired:  Trade with MIN, April 3, 2013
Last contract signed:  July 8, 2017, 2yr./$2.95 million
Final year of contract:  2018-19

2017-18 Stats:  80 games played | 4 goals | 13 assists | 17 points | -30 | 14:07 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats:  257 games | 26 goals | 39 assists | 65 points | -41 | 14:41

What we wrote preseason:  The stout, 5'11" 200 lb. native of Sweden and captain of their 2012 World Junior gold medal squad (their first since 1981) was a third round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2010 and in 2015-26 completed his first full season in Buffalo chalking up a career high 10 goals and 17 points and that seemed to be his floor.

When he's on his game, Larsson has a very abrasive style of play that grates on the opposition to the point where they end up chasing him around instead of following the play. Injuries took away what was promising to be his best season ever (2016-17) and one could surmise that we still haven't seen Larsson's production peak yet. The third-line center position could be up for grabs this year dependent upon how Housley wants it constructed and in the years to come, Larsson will have a couple of players, most notably Rasmus Asplund and Cliff Pu, nipping at his heels for that spot.

That's not a bad thing for the Sabres as ideally Larsson would make for an excellent fourth-line center on a Cup-contending team. And if we see him in that spot, it will mean good things are happening for the forward group.

What we wrote mid-season:  Has the second-worst plus/minus on the team at a minus-15 and averages fourth-line minutes. Larsson only has one goal this year, and it was an empty-netter. Like the rest of the team he's looked better as of late, but those first 25 games or so were brutal. With the Sabres returning to health, ice-time will go to those who produce and/or earn it and Larsson will need to up his play if he wants to be in the lineup. Center Jacob Josefson is nearing return from injury and will probably take over that No. 4 center's role meaning Larsson will either be bumped to the wing or bumped up into the press box.

Impressions on his play this year:  For the most part, awful. Larsson was a minus-30, dead last on the team. Those around him at -34 (Kyle Okposo,) and minus-25 (Rasmus Ristolainen and Jack Eichel) were all on the ice for nearly all of the league-leading 22 empty net goals against and an NHL second worst 10 shorthanded goals against. With the emergence of Evan Rodrigues as a legit third-line center and the introduction of center Casey Mittelstadt into the lineup next season, Larsson will be dropping down the center depth chart. And with this past season being as rough as it was, he may drop down further than that as there could be a huge youth movement in Buffalo next season.

Questions moving forward:  Was his poor season a product of the poor team he played on? With all the changes the team has gone through, does he even like playing in Buffalo anymore? Will Sean Malone be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season as a fourth-line center? Does Larsson have any trade value? Would the team waive him? How would he react to being waived? Is he a buyout candidate?  

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

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