25 yrs. old
5'11" 200 lbs.
2010, 56th-overall (MIN)
Acquired in a trade on April 3, 2013 with the Minnesota Wild
Career stats: 178 games | 22 goals | 26 assists | 48 points | -11
At the end of the day on July 1, Buffalo GM Jason Botterill had just finished the arduous task of taking over a new team with a flurry of activity facing him. Botterill was hired on May 11 and had a quick introduction to his new scouting staff while prepping for the draft, had an expansion draft to prepare for, then the 2017 NHL Draft itself and finally onto free agency where he and his staff signed eight players to bolster both the Sabres and the Rochester Americans on the very first day.
After a brief period it was on to making decisions on the many RFA's in the organization which included arbitration for three players--Johan Larsson, newly acquired defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and starting goalie Robin Lehner.
Larsson was the first of the three to settle as he and the Sabres came together on a 2yr./$2.95 million deal July 8.
The stout, 5'11" 200 lb. native of Sweden and captain of their 2012 World Junior gold medal squad (their first since 1981) was a third round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2010 (56th-overall) and came to Buffalo when the Sabres traded away Jason Pominville in . It was a trade that, for Buffalo, began an organization clearing tear-down in a scorched earth rebuild and ironically, Pominville is now back with the Sabres and Larsson is heading into his fifth season with Buffalo.
In 2015-16 Larsson completed his first full season with the club chalking up a career high 10 goals and 17 points and that seemed to be his floor. He was well on his way to taking up those numbers a notch before crashing awkwardly into the boards in Boston on December 31 and dislocating both his elbow and wrist. Surgery kept him out the rest of the season but he should be fully healthy when training camp starts in two days.
In 178 NHL games Larsson notched 48 points (22+26,) which is rather meager, but he does have seven game-winning goals as a Sabre and had 49.1% faceoff percentage last year, which was second on the team behind Ryan O'Reilly (58%) for those taking 250 or more draws. Numbers, however, don't tell the whole story with him.
When he's on his game, Larsson has a very abrasive style of play that grates on the opposition to the point where they end up chasing him around instead of following the play. He's very aware in the defensive zone as represented by his team-high 64.7% d-zone starts and was also used on the penalty kill. In a nod to the offensive side of his game, Larsson was also used sparingly on the powerplay (:28/game) and did manage a powerplay goal.
The knock on Larsson, and why he's in a defensive/checking role, has always been his skating, which he's been able to overcome with smarts and a (junk-yard) dogged determination. How that plays into Phil Housley's scheme will be determined as the new head coach wants to play an up-tempo style with his defense joining the rush. Housley was hired by the Sabres nearly a full month before they re-signed Larsson to his two-year deal and it would seem as if he has no problem integrating Larsson into his system.
Injuries took away what was promising to be his best season ever and one could surmise that we still haven't seen Larsson's production peak yet. Regardless of that, when Botterill signed off on the deal he looked at the (then) 24 yr. old as an asset. The third-line center position could be up for grabs this year dependent upon how Housley wants it constructed and in the years to come, Larsson will have a couple of players, most notably Rasmus Asplund and Cliff Pu, nipping at his heels for that spot.
That's not a bad thing for the Sabres as ideally Larsson would make for an excellent fourth-line center on a Cup-contending team. And if we see him in that spot, it will mean good things are happening for the forward group.
Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Evander Kane
/ C, Jack Eichel
/ RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot
/ C, Ryan O'Reilly
/ RW, Kyle Okposo
/ C, Johan Larsson /
D, Marco Scandella
/ D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
G, Robin Lehner
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