You keep hearing stories about Mikael Granlund dominating the Finnish Elite League, you hear stories about Brett Bulmer looking like a pro, and you hear stories about Jason Zucker being one of the top college players.
But you ever hear about Johan Larsson?
You know, the guy drafted 56th overall in the second round during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The guy drafted after Brett Bulmer.
He's a 5'10" 200lbs Swedish forward that plays for Brynas IF and is quickly becoming one of the Wild's best prospects.
Thought we would start with a two quick scouting report from Kirk Luedeke, now a part of Red Line Report, and from Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News.
Stock is exploding after a dominating performance for Team Sweden at the under-18 tourney, finishing second to Teemu Pulkkinen in scoring. Extremely intelligent player reportedly hadn't done a lot all season, but picked the perfect time to elevate his game into the stratosphere. Not tall, but strong on his skates and protects the puck well. His a nice release on a wrist shot and is a skilled passer. Plays with energy and grit; leads by example and makes big plays at crunch time. Didn't appear on the scoresheet in the gold medal loss against USA, but it wasn't for a lack of trying from what I was told.
Larsson has been to known to possess explosive offensive ability, but his true strength is how he can be a dominant two-way player. His offensive explosion will definitely catapult his draft ranking to new levels, as scouts love supposed defensive players who raise their game on the elite stage and demonstrate versatility. And versatility might just be Larsson's greatest attribute.
He is a dynamic and intelligent player who works extremely hard and is beyond competitive. His skill set isn't over the top or flashy by any means, but he does come with a bag of tricks he can rely on to create space when needed.
Larsson is physically solid and uses his strong 6-foot 198-pound frame well along the boards and when jockeying for space around the net. His offensive skills have an exclamation point next to them right now, but when an NHL team calls his name at this year's NHL draft in Los Angeles, it will be for his all-around game and ability to kill penalties - the promise of that offensive potential is just icing on the cake.
This was two drafts ago, and since then, Larsson has not done anything to hurt himself. If anything, he has begun to establish himself as one of the top prospects currently playing in Sweden.
If there was a cliche term to describe Johan Larsson as a hockey player, it would be "jack of all trades". He is known for his defensive game and intangibles; his ability to be consistent and responsible. As a result, his offense has always been questioned. But since being drafted by the Wild, he has been showing flashes of offensive ability.
He has found a regular spot on his professional team, Brynas, in the Swedish Elite League. This season, he plays an average of 16:30 minutes per game, good for 5th amongst team forwards.
In addition to his regular ice time, it seems that he has found his offensive game and it is now less of a question mark. He currently has the 2nd most points scored (5 goals, 5 assists), tied with Detroit Red Wings draft pick Calle Jarnkrok.
His 10 points in 14 games have already beaten his last season's totals of 8 points in 43 games.
He also continued to show his offensive side when Sweden played against Finland and Team USA during the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid. He led all players with 4 goals and 10 assists in only 5 games.
Larsson is no alien to international play. During the 2010/11 World Junior Championships, he was voted a top 3 player for Sweden, with 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 games. What was most impressive was his faceoff ability, winning a ridiculous 70.59% of his faceoffs.
And let's not forget his ability to take lead of a team. He was the captain for Sweden U-18 during his draft year, and will be looking for be either THE captain or one of the assistant captains for this years U-20 Swedish team.
I'm running out of breath...
And it’s not known for hockey, with the exception of one Swedish great, Hakan Loob. But Larsson has emerged from Lau as well, with some comparing him to Sammy Pahlsson thanks to his grit and defensive awareness. Larsson welcomes the connection, but doesn’t want to limit himself.
So the Wild drafted a player that has tons of similarities to Sammy Pahlsson, one of the leagues premium defensive forwards, but seems to have a knack of showing up offensively as well? A bulky, versatile forward? A nineteen year old that plays regular minutes, will captain his country against top junior players, and will be relied on for his offensive game, his defensive game, his faceoff ability, and his grit and energy?
Forget Pahlsson, that sounds alot like what Mikko Koivu does for the Wild.
And if he develops into anything NEAR what Koivu means to Minnesota, that would be one hell of a pick. But let's just wait and see what happens. For now, all of us can rest comfortably, knowing Larsson is being given EVERY chance of developing all parts of his game.
Now it is just up to him to develop and progress into the player he wants to be and the Wild hope for him to be.