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Prospect Update: Jacob Larsson
By Thomas Harrington
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Jacob Larsson has spent the majority of his time playing over in Sweden. He did make his NHL and AHL debuts in the 2016-2017 season but ended up returning to the SHL for most of the season. This past season, he came over to North America on a full-time basis and spent the entire season with the San Diego Gulls.
Much was expected of Larsson last season, and the hope was that he would compete for a spot in Anaheim out of training camp. While he was among the last players cut, he was ultimately assigned to the Gulls. Unfortunately, he had offseason knee surgery, and that really impacted his play in the first half of the season. He actually missed a number of games early in the season because of this issue, only playing in four of eight games in October. Overall, Larsson played in 50 games for San Diego and scored three goals and 16 points. He led all San Diego rookie defensemen in scoring, and was tied for third in Gulls rookie scoring overall. He also led the Gulls with a +12 rating. While +/- is a flawed stat, leading the team as a rookie is good sign of his defensive play, especially given the fact that he saw a lot of time on the top pair, often next to Jaycob Megna.
Last year, my hope for Larsson was that he’d spend some time in Anaheim. I knew that he’d play for the Gulls at some point during the season, I just didn’t think it would be for the entire season. So his spending the entire year with the Gulls is a disappointment. However, given his recovery from knee surgery and his slow start to the year, it ultimately isn’t all that surprising. I also said that when Larsson was in San Diego, he needed to be one of their top defensemen. Well, by playing on their top pairing, I’d say he definitely proved his mettle in the AHL. So while he didn’t meet any NHL expectations, he certainly met my AHL ones.
Thankfully, Larsson’s knee problems are behind him and he should enter training camp fully healthy. With a healthy knee, I’m fully expecting to see Larsson in Anaheim this coming season. He and Marcus Pettersson are two rookie defensemen who Bob Murray thinks will likely get playing time with the Ducks. Of the two, Larsson has the higher ceiling, but Pettersson does have more NHL experience, and that counts for a lot when comparing two young players. When Larsson is in the NHL, I just want to see solid, safe minutes out of him. The Ducks have Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, and Brandon Montour as their top four; they don’t need Larsson to be spectacular this year. He’ll get bottom pairing minutes to start, and go from there. At some point, he’s going to struggle and probably see some time in San Diego. When that happens, he needs to step up and go right back to where he finished last season: on the team’s top pair.
In terms of his NHL future, this is the season where Larsson needs to show that he’s a future NHL defenseman. This isn’t a make or break season for Larsson, but he does need to show why he was a first-round pick, and getting a lot of NHL games this season will go a long way towards that. If he’s not a full-time Anaheim player this year, I do believe that he will be by next season.
Larsson has two years left on his entry-level contract, and I’m confident that the Ducks will sign him when it’s up. What he does over the course of the next two years will largely impact what kind of deal he gets. Personally, I highly doubt he gets a long-term contract, but I do believe his defensive play will warrant a one-way contract for a couple of seasons.
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August 31st, 2018