Philip Larsen showing steady improvement

Defenseman Philip Larsen is in his third tour of duty with the Dallas Stars this season. With each one comes a higher comfort level, more confidence and improvement.

“I’ve been feeling better this time than the last time I was up, even if it’s just 20 days ago. I feel a lot more confident this time,” Larsen said. “Sometimes it’s difficult when everything is new, but the more times you get called up the more time you get to know all the guys and the team better and better. You feel more comfortable and that’s pretty normal. I’ve been feeling pretty good.”

Larsen has played three games in this latest stint in the NHL, picking up one assist and a plus-four rating. He has two assists and a plus-1 rating in six NHL games for the season.

“He’s played well for us. There’s improvement from the last time he was here,” said assistant coach Charlie Huddy. “The biggest part is the defending part of it and he’s doing a better job of that, being in better body position. That is always the hard thing for young guys coming up in the defensive zone with things happening faster and being able to read and react quicker. He’s doing that. The offensive part is there. He’s got the skill, good hands and good vision to be able to see stuff. Definitely improvement from last time.”

Larsen, considered the team’s top prospect on defense, turned 21 last month. He’s still young and developing. The areas where he needs to improve are standard for a player his age.

“He’s getting stronger and that strength is going to separate him from where he is now,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “It will separate him when he is leaving the zone with the puck. His strength in his legs and his quickness in his legs will allow him to separate from the opposition forecheckers. We’re not seeing that as much right now. You can see it when he has open ice, but not when he is challenged the way you see it with [Stephane] Robidas or with [Trevor] Daley. That’s what we are going to eventually see from him.”

An increase in strength can bring more zip to Larsen’s shot, an important tool for the highly skilled, offensive defenseman and a player who will see a lot of time on the power play.

"He's very clever and creative,” said Crawford. "If he develops a strong shot, a more overpowering shot then he becomes a very dangerous power play guy. There's no doubt he's got creativity, he's got poise and he reads plays well."

Most of Larsen's development this season is taking place with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. This is the first season in North American for Larsen, who is from Denmark and played in the Swedish Elite League prior to coming to Texas. There’s been an adjustment to the North American game. He’s been doing that in the AHL, where he’s played very well lately.

In his last 14 games, he has seven assists and a plus-9 rating. In 29 games this season he has 13 assists and a plus-7 rating.

“There are some things you have to pay attention to and learn,” Larsen said. “I play with Brad Lukowich, he won two Stanley Cups, and he helps me. He’s a really good guy and explains how to play the game defensively, the small details you have to pay attention to that make a big difference in the game. I’ve been learning a lot from him.”

With the Stars possibly getting injured defenseman Karlis Skrastins back this weekend, Larsen could be soon heading to back the AHL. That’s where he needs to continue to get the quality ice time to develop his game.

“It’s a great opportunity for him right now to get more NHL time, to see the NHL level and to reinforce the things that he has to work on to be a consistent, everyday player up here,” said Crawford. “He’s filled in admirably and he shows you glimpses of what is to come.”

Stars on a roll

The Stars are 16-5-4 over their last 25 games. It’s a streak that started November 24, when the Stars won 2-1 at Ottawa to begin what would turn into a six-game winning streak. Here’s a look at some stats for the Stars over the last 25 games.

Last 25 games by the numbers

A look statistical look at the Dallas Stars over the last 25 games