Brian Rafalski. Scott Niedermayer. Scott Stevens.
The great Devils teams had an almost-impenetrable line of defense in front of Martin Brodeur. It was also a blueline that could quickly put a team on its heels and turn the attack around. Now, the Devils have tabbed Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson as the next in the line of defensive succession.
The general consensus is that Larsson, who could have gone as high as No. 1, is an immediate-impact player (Insider access required). But it’s also that he is a tremendous skater with the necessary toughness and size to play on a top-two pairing. That’s huge for a Devils franchise that loves to pinch pennies and spend judiciously. In the salary-cap era, it’s crucial to find good players for cheap. Good, young players? That’s a double-bonus for GM and president Lou Lamoriello.
ESPN Insider’s scouting report says that Larsson is ahead of fellow Swede defender and current Tampa Bay Lightning Victor Hedman was when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2009. It also lists his positives as “Size. Skating. Puck-handling. Solid at even strength and on PP.”
Sounds like exactly what the Devils have needed on the blueline since the Big Three departed some time ago -- and Larsson being a righty shot doesn’t hurt matters.
Will Larsson have a Calder-like season next year? Probably not. But it’s New Jersey. It’s not the system for an individual player to step up and shine, let alone a defenseman. But what he will do is come into camp and earn a role -- likely as the No. 3 or No. 4 defenseman -- and spend the year learning the ins and outs from Henrik Tallinder and Colin White. He won’t be bothered by the level of competition either, having come from the Swedish Elite League and gone toe-to-toe with the Russians in this year’s World Junior Championships.
In the short term, the Devils’ front office will love this pick because Larsson will be a solid two-way defender with offensive upside that will help them take one or two last shots at a Stanley Cup with Brodeur still in net. In the long term, the front office and the fans will love it because Larsson will fill the hole vacated by the departures of their great defensemen.