New Jersey Devils Roster: Adam Larsson the Next Victor Hedman?


Chico Resch once said that being a successful defenseman in the NHL is difficult because of the adjustments a player needs to make against the elite levels of competition. While some defensemen are successful right out of the gate, it may take others a couple of years to put everything together and become a great player.

When the New Jersey Devils selected defenseman Adam Larsson fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, fans were excited because they all read somewhere that he reminded scouts of Nicklas Lidstrom. How could you not be excited with a comparison like that?

However, three years into his career, Larsson was nowhere near the player Lidstrom was. A combination of injuries, inconsistent play, and losing the trust of former Devils coach Peter DeBoer had Larsson on the verge of earning the infamous “draft bust” label.

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While his career did not begin like he had hoped, Adam Larsson, 22, is still young and talented, so it is too soon to deem him a bust. Larsson’s early career struggles are actually similar to Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, another highly touted Swedish defenseman. I dubbed these struggles “Victor Hedman syndrome,” because Hedman too struggled to live up to the tremendous hype out of the gate.

After watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, a large number of hockey fans fell in love with Victor Hedman. He has everything an elite defenseman should; size, speed, passing skills, scoring ability, etc. Who wouldn’t want a player of his caliber on their favorite team? Devils fans do not realize it, but Adam Larsson could be that player.

Victor Hedman was also a top draft pick (second overall in 2009), and much like Adam Larsson, he too struggled with production early in his career. While he played well, he was not living up to the high expectations that the Lightning and it’s fans had when they drafted him. However, if you watched Hedman play now, you would never think that he was an underachiever.

Hedman’s career took off during the 2013-2014 season, when he became the top pairing defenseman the Lightning hoped he would be and posted a career high 55 points. He then proved that his breakout season was no fluke by continuing his success with 38 points in an injury shortened campaign. The playoffs however, were what put him into elite company.

Hedman was one of the main reasons that the Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Finals. His leadership, along with his elite defensive play was part of the backbone of Tampa Bay’s deep run. Hedman posted 14 points in the playoffs, and many had him as the favorite for the Conn Smythe trophy.

It might be crazy to think that Adam Larsson could be the player that Victor Hedman is, but given their Swedish origins, the hype they received as prospects, their size and skill sets, it is possible that Larsson could simply be another late bloomer like Hedman. That may have been the case for him during the 2014-2015 season.

The Devils coaching change during the 2014-2015 season might have been the best thing to happen for Adam Larsson’s career. Under the tutelage of Scott Stevens, Larsson blossomed as a player, and was finally showing that long lost talent we were all told about in 2011.

Under the new coaching staff, Larsson excelled playing top pairing minutes with Andy Greene. He played exceptionally well in all three zones and on special teams. However, the most important thing for Larsson was that he was playing with confidence again and it led to a career high 24 points in 64 games.

Adam Larsson’s strong finish in 2015 will likely earn him a nice contract extension from the Devils. It also shows that he is overcoming his early struggles and is primed for a breakout year. Now that he has established himself, he will likely go into training camp with the trust of the new coaching staff as one of their top defenders.

So if Victor Hedman taught Devils fans anything, it is that they need to be patient with Adam Larsson. After all, he is still only 22 years old with tremendous potential and all signs point to him getting better. What do you think? Do you think Larsson could become the all star defenseman that Devils fans dreamed of? Feel free to give your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

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