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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Larsson adjusts to North American style

TRAVERSE CITY -- Daniel Larsson is dealing with things like smaller ice surfaces and English colloquialisms this week at the Detroit Red Wings' prospects camp as he makes the move from Swedish hockey to the North American professional game.

But Daniel Larsson isn't about to fret.

"He's one of those guys who is always calm," said Hakan Andersson, the Red Wings' director of European scouting. "Nothing fazes him. If he was sleeping and a bomb went off, he'd stay down and just open one eye to see what the fuss was."

The fuss right now in Larsson's life is that he's making the jump from Sweden to the United States. The 22-year-old is playing his first hockey in North America this week, taking part in the Red Wings' prospects camp before the team's main camp begins, Friday.

Larsson was selected by the Red Wings in the fourth round in 2006 and is slated to start this season in Grand Rapids, partnered in net with Jimmy Howard.

"That first year, expectations aren't as high," said Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill. "We hope he comes in and lights it up. If he struggles, we're not going to be surprised. If he does well, we're not going to be surprised. But he's going to have to adjust to a different game. He's used to a bigger ice surface in Sweden. He has to adjust to living in a different country. It's the life change more than the hockey change."

Hockey changes have come smoothly for Larsson. He fits one Red Wing profile in that he's a late bloomer who was drafted late.

Passed over in two entire NHL drafts, Larsson started to gain some attention at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver.

Playing on a team with current Washington Capital Niklas Backstrom and Red Wing draft pics Mattias Ritola, Anton Axelsson and Johan Ryno, Larsson led the prestigious tournament with a 0.96 goals-against average and topped all netminders with a .952 save percentage.

Five months later in the same city as the World Juniors were held, Vancouver, Larsson was drafted by the Red Wings.

"He works with the best goalie coach in Sweden," said Andersson. "And he said that he's never had a goalie who's better at positioning, being in the right place, reading the play."

That skill helped Larsson evolve in the professional ranks of Sweden. He made the jump from the Allsvenskan (second division) to the Elitserien (Elite League) in 2006.
After one season as a No. 2 goalie at Djurgarden, Larsson became the starter there last winter. Playing 46 games, Larsson posted great numbers -- 2.29 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

That performance led to Larsson being named the Swedish Elite League's top goalie for 2007-08 and top rookie.

By the end of the season, Larsson had a two-year entry-level contract from the Red Wings and a spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins' roster.

"He needs to get in 30, 35 games," said Nill. "That's going to be adequate. There's a chance he's going to play more. You don't know what the year's going to bring with injuries. If he goes down there and shows he can play, we'll adjust things."

On the ice, Larsson will have to adjust to rinks that are shrunk from the European size (100 feet wide) to North American size (85 feet).

The change in size is significant. When Red Wing prospect Jonathan Ericsson took part in his first practice on North American ice two years ago, he started a back-skating drill that ended abruptly when he backed into the boards.

"It's a lot different in a smaller rink," said Larsson. "They shoot from the corners. On big rinks, that's not a possibility to score from there. They might shoot once in a 100 from there. … Here I feel like I'm in the right spot, then you're wrong. You're almost one meter wrong from where you would be by instinct."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's hope Larsson's first North American season goes smoother than Stephan Liv's did.

September 16, 2008 at 7:19 PM 
Blogger Jeremiah said...

Great entry. I am a huge goalie guy, so I like to focus on them, and it appears as if the Wings have some real potential here with McCollum and Larsson, not to mention Jimmy Howard. Three guys who could all end up in the NHL one day, if they keep improving.

One thing I noticed about Larsson and McCollum....they are very similar to Ozzie when it comes to mental makeup. The Wings like to find goalies with a strong mental makeup, someone who won't get rattled. In this town, you need it. We've seen thoughout the years, especially in this recent Cup run, what kind of effect a calm head can have in net. I think this bodes well for these guys.

IMO, nobody is better at rebounding mentally and handling adversity than Osgood, and these two guys, who are already scouted as having a strong head on their shoulders, will benefit greatly from being around a guy like Ozzie.

Just something I noticed.

Thanks for this story!

September 16, 2008 at 10:16 PM 

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