Swedish hockey player Johan Larsson has been on the radars of several NHL teams for quite a while. He first popped up in 2005, when he made it into the Swedish juniors at the age of 13. Ever since then, several teams around the world have been waiting for Larsson to blossom into the international hockey star that he is destined to be, and there has been more than one professional league interested in securing his services.
When Larsson was only 18 years old, he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 56th overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft. He was considered a prospect with a significant upside and almost no downside. The Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the Russian KHL also had high hopes for Larsson as that team drafted him in the fifth round of the KHL 2010 junior draft.
In 2010, Larsson wound up signing a two-year contract with the Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite league and finished the season as the league’s rookie of the year. The entire time that Larsson was playing in Sweden, he knew that his time was running out with the NHL and the KHL. The Wild offered Larsson a sizable contract and also said that it would allow Larsson to play out the last year of his Brynas IF contract for the 2011-2012 season. It was a deal that Larsson could not refuse, so he signed with the Wild and joined the NHL.
In 2012, Larsson was a major part of the Swedish National Team that won the World Junior Hockey Championship and his legend in Sweden grew. But even as his international stock was rising, the Minnesota Wild really did not show much interest in the 5-feet-11, 206-pound left winger. Larsson only played one game for Minnesota before he and goaltender Mark Hackett were traded to the Buffalo Sabres.
When Larsson first arrived in Buffalo, he was thrust into the starting lineup by then Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston. When Rolston was fired and replaced by Ted Nolan, Larsson was immediately sent to the AHL where he started getting the ice time he needed to learn the NHL game.
Larsson is fast, smart, and has a thunderous shot from the slot. He can hit and has the utmost confidence in himself and his abilities. He has the potential to be a consistent 20-goal scorer for the Sabres, if he is given the time to develop properly. At this point, Ted Nolan is giving Larsson glimpses of the NHL while making sure that the rookie gets plenty of time in Rochester.
Sabres fans should be excited about the potential that Johan Larsson possesses. When combined with someone like rookie center Zemgus Girgensons, Larsson could wind up forming the core that becomes the next wave of great Buffalo players.