Who is this guy: Johan Larsson is an eighteen-year old left-winger from Lau, Sweden and the second of three second-round picks by the Wild in 2010. The net result of trading Eric Belanger to Washington, Larsson has been a bit of an enigma. Maybe it's because he's the only one of the second-round picks playing in Europe or a Swede on a team which is known for its Finnish players, but the 5'10" 200 lb Larsson has been overlooked by many fans while playing for Brynas IF (the same team Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals played for in Sweden).
What's he doing: Mixing things up. A versatile player, Larsson has played twenty-four games in the Swedish Elite League as an eighteen year-old and ten with the junior team. While he has dominated the younger competition by scoring six goals and nine assists in ten games, Larsson has been unable to adapt his scoring touch against men. Right now he is looking for his first SEL goal and only has two assists. Larsson has also been named to Sweden's national team for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships and hopes to add onto the praise he received at this year's World Under-18 tournament.
How this compares to other Wild prospects: Fairly well. It's tough to compare different development paths and Minnesota hasn't really had many prospects come through Sweden (anyone remember Morten Madsen?). Hockey's Future has Larsson as Minnesota's seventh-best prospect in the fall rankings. That's above the other two second-round picks so there are some high expectations. He has improved his play and scoring from year-to-year in the J20 junior level in addition to dominating his age group last year in the World Under-18 tournament. In five games, Larsson had fourteen points and was the biggest talk of the tournament this side of Teemu Pulkkinen. However like fellow second-round draft pick Jason Zucker, Larsson has been more known for other attributes besides goal scoring as seen by this THN article before the draft.
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.
Why he can still be a
Right now Larsson is a mixed bag since he has continued to play well against younger players but not against real men. To be fair, he is a young (July birthday) eighteen year-old playing in one of the top professional hockey leagues in the world. That's not the best learning environment for a youngster as Wild fans would sadly know all too well. With that said, there's plenty of positives to take from Johan Larsson in his play and growth but until he can from hold his own in the SEL, Larsson will be a work in progress. And works in progress can be busts.
(Sources used/consulted: The Hockey News, wild.com, Hockey's Future, eliteprospects.com, Hockey DB, inlouwetrust.com, ESPN, thescoutingreport.org and hockeyligan.se, )