Adam Larsson is in the New Jersey Devils training camp this year looking to become a regular player on the blueline. Last season, with eight regular defenseman (mainly veterans), it was hard for the young player to be a regular fixture in the Devils lineup.
This season, he’s hoping all of that will change.
“I know what it takes and I know what I have to do to win,” Larsson said. “That’s what I’ve been working on this summer. It’s fun to be back and be around the guys. I’m enjoying it right now.”
“It feels good, but it’s a long camp,” he said of how he felt he was doing so far in camp. “First [scrimmage] today, the timing isn’t there yet. It’s hard to say right now, but it feels good. My body feels good.”
“[I worked on] everything,” he said of what he did over the summer. “I have to be stronger and faster. That’s what I’ve been working on this summer. It feels like I had worked on [being] stronger and faster now. It’s a lot of work to do still.”
Only being a year and a half removed from being drafted fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, the 20 year old spent a lot of time working to improve his game over the summer. He worked mainly on his skating and strengthening his legs.
“I can say it was a bad season for me,” he said of last season. “I think even when I was down in Albany it was a good time for me to play a lot of minutes. I know it will take me a couple years to really adjust and get used to the game.
“This is a very important year for me so I have to step up and show the coaches and the organization that I earned a spot in 82 games this year.”
He feels like he is ready to play a full season this year.
“I know it’s a long season and an intense schedule, but so far it feels good.”
“The coaches always play the best Dman and it’s always up to them. I try to play my best today. It’s their decision.”
“I have to think about what I have to do to help the team. I really can’t sit there and think about what other people think of me.”
“You always want to show the coaches that you can play offensively too. That’s what I was trying to do last year, too. Of course, you want to play on both sides of the ice. Maybe [I'll] try to be more offensive this year. We’ll see what the coaches ask me.”
The Devils face the Rangers in their first preseason match of the season. With the possibility of former New Jersey Devil Johan Hedberg in net for the Rangers, the Devils can’t wait to face him because they know how to beat him.
“I’ll probably shoot so he doesn’t pokecheck on me,” Larsson said. “[I know how to beat him.] I can’t tell you [how].”
“I’m glad for him,” he said of Hedberg trying out with the Rangers. “He told me he still wants to play when I talked to him last week…that he get an offer close to his home with his family now. It’s very difficult for him. It’s kind of sad we don’t have him around. He’s really a nice guy.”
Henrik Tallinder, another Swede like Larsson and Hedberg, was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on July 7th for Riley Boychuk. Tallinder recently said some not so favorable things to the Buffalo papers about the Devils’ coaching staff and being glad to get out of New Jersey.
“Of course, I would rather see him here,” Larsson said of Tallinder. “He helped me a lot my first two years. At the same time, he changed quickly.”
“He was frustrated, that’s for sure. I understand that. I know how it felt. I was in that spot at the end there. You never want to sit in the stands. You always want to play. It’s always frustrating.”
With Tallinder gone, this gives Larsson an opportunity to fit into the Devils lineup full-time. Being a young defenseman, he still has some growing to do.
“Just another step,” coach DeBoer said of what he expects of Larsson. “If this was easy, everybody would do it. If getting drafted high meant you automatically became a NHL All-Star…we all know that’s not the case.
“He’s just got to take another step. I like where he’s at. I like the path he’s taken. He’s paid his dues. He’s had some adversity. I think we’re going to have a better player for that this year.
“I think you want to show improvement every year. I know he’s looking to take a step this year. I know we’re looking for him to take a step this year.
“Looking back, it’s on me more than anything. We handed him power plays. We handed him everything right out of the gate as a rookie. As the season went on, the pace picked up, we scaled that back. We made a conscious decision last year, especially starting halfway through and the league really jumping in at that full speed with only 48 games to play. We were going to have him concentrate on 5-on-5 and the defensive part of the game. It’s on me. We probably should have done that the other way around. We should have come out of the gate with that, give him a little bit more last year. At the end of the day, he’s in the same spot. He’s had a little bit of both. We think he’s going to be able to do a lot of things for us.”
DeBoer believes that he will be a cornerstone player.
“He’s quiet. He’s laid back, but there’s a real competitiveness there that’s underlying. Don’t be fooled. He’s a proud young guy. He’s confident in his abilities. He’s competitive.”
Jagr Doing Better
“I did see him though and he’s feeling better,” coach DeBoer said of Jaromir Jagr. “He’s not on the ice. I didn’t see what he did today. I just had that conversation with him that he’s feeling better and he’s improving. I’m not concerned about it in the long term here. We’re not going to rush him. He’s kind of setting his own timetable right now to get back out.”