A young veteran
A young veteran
Larsson to Debut for Swedes
Although just 23 years old, it feels like Larsson has been around for some time and it is quite miraculous that he has never had the opportunity to play for Sweden at a World Championship or the Olympics.
Despite his age, Larsson can be considered a veteran after joining the NHL with the New Jersey Devils at the age of 19, five long seasons ago. His time since he left the Skelleftea AIK program, in Sweden, in 2011 and moved over the Atlantic to New Jersey has thrown many trials and tribulations his way, which have made him into the hockey player he is today. Larsson and defensive partner Andy Greene have become the elite shutdown pair for the Devils and one of the best pairings in the NHL for that matter.
In 2015/16 Larsson and Greene racked up the most ice time of anyone in New Jersey during 5-on-5 play and on the penalty kill, naturally being large contributors to their team being in the top-8 for shot attempts against and penalty kill percentage. Larsson also started 25 per cent more in his own defensive zone than anybody else in New Jersey, besides Greene, in 2015/16.
“I felt so prepared last year so I was kind of confident going in, especially after the second half of the year that past before that. I didn’t really think too much, I was just really excited and kept it running from there,” explained Adam Larsson to IIHF.com.
Things have not always been plums and roses for Larsson since coming to the NHL. It was only during the 2014/15 season where he finally established himself in the New Jersey Devils as a top defenceman after a horrible run of injuries, the most serious a knee injury which he suffered late in 2013 which kept him off the ice for two months.
“Obviously I was a young guy coming in and I think you have to realize that when you are young you are going to have ups and downs like that, especially in that league too,” Larsson said. “It is almost like a different sport to what it is back here in Sweden. But it was a learning experience for me and I think back now going through that, looking at it right now, it was pretty helpful for me.”
After such a string of injuries and his ripe young age, many players in similar position to Larsson may have just faded into background and become, just like many before them, another lost talent of the NHL because of a bit of bad luck and an uphill battle. But Larsson’s mature mind didn’t let that happen, he got back on the horse time and time again and rode the positives from every situation.
“I think overall, you are going to go through that kind of stuff,” explained Larsson. “When I was back here (in Sweden) it was just up all the time. I didn’t have any down time here. It was different for me. It was hard, but at the same time, afterwards, you will have ups and downs.”
“It was a learning curve for me but you have to learn from it and see it in a positive way. It isn’t easy some times. We have a couple of young guys in our team right now (in New Jersey), that I try and tell that it is just something you go through and the quicker you get past it the better but you got to go through it.”
Larsson performance in 2014/15 in New Jersey saw him sign with the Devils a six-year, $25 million contract heading into last season. After following up his breakout year with an even better showing Larsson has now been awarded a debut for the Tre Kronor at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Yeah it will be a lot of fun. It will be my first championship here. I don’t know a lot of the guys in the team here, so it has been a fun couple of days here,” said Larsson after joining the Swedish team for the Euro Hockey Tour in April.
“It is a young squad here. A couple of guys arrive late from the NHL and the SHL final too. Seeing all the young guys here too, I’m not old but I have been around, to watch them play is pretty exciting and fun. I think that has been what makes us a successful team so far, that we are young and hungry and there are not a lot of guys that have a World Championship on their backs. It is different, but I think that can be a good thing sometimes,” explains Larsson.
Personally, Larsson does expect that he will be playing a similar role as he did in New Jersey for the Swedes at the World Championships, seeing a lot of ice time and being used in all defensive situations.
“I think I will have the same role as I had there. But we haven’t really talked about how and who I am going to play with, but we will see when it gets closer to the tournament. We will probably see a better picture of it,” he said.
The Swedes will kick off their campaign against Latvia on the 6th May in Moscow, at the Ice Palace, and will not be taking any of the group matches lightly on their clear quest to take a medal in Russia.
“We are obviously aiming for gold, but we still have to realize that we need to start with the first game and qualify through the group. I think that should be a main focus right now. Obviously, I wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t that I wanted to win a gold medal, so I think that is pretty obvious for all of us,” finished a determined Adam Larsson.
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