By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks selected defenseman Jacob Larsson 27th overall at the draft last year. The Ducks’ prospect strength has long been on defense, and Larsson only added to that.
Last season, Larsson spent most of the year playing in the SHL, though he did play one game in the SuperElit. He played for Frolunda HC J20 in that game and went scoreless. In the SHL, he played in 47 games for Frolunda HC and scored five goals and 14 points. As an 18-year-old, he was averaging around 16 minutes per game on the second pairing in one of the top hockey leagues in the world on one of the best teams, not in the NHL. In the playoffs, he played in all 16 playoff games and recorded three assists, helping Frolunda win the SHL Championship, over fellow Anaheim prospect Marcus Pettersson and Skelleftea AIK.
Besides his time in the SHL, Larsson also played for Sweden at the World Championships, where he got to play alongside Pettersson this time rather than against him. He played in 6 games for Sweden in the tournament and scored one goal and three points. Sweden finished a disappointing fourth, but Larsson played well for them throughout the tournament.
Back in May, the Ducks signed Larsson to his three-year entry-level contract, showing their commitment to the young defenseman. Larsson also joined San Diego for the playoffs on a tryout agreement and appeared in one game with the Gulls. He went scoreless in his lone appearance with San Diego. The important thing was that it gave him a chance to play a game with some of his future teammates and a chance to play in Anaheim’s system in an actual game; something that could be invaluable when he fully transitions to North American hockey.
This coming season, Larsson will once again play for Frolunda in the SHL. After being a second pairing player last season, it would be great to see him push for top pairing minutes and put up a few more points. If he can be a top pairing player at age 19 in the SHL, it will show how bright a future Larsson has. Even if he stays on the second pair, being able to do so at such a young age on such a good team is a great sign of how he’s developed. Larsson is also expected to play for Sweden at the World Junior Championships. After finishing in fourth a year ago, Larsson and his teammates will look to make it to the podium this coming season. If Larsson can be one of Sweden’s top defenders and lead them to a top three finish at the tournament, that will only cement his status as one of Anaheim’s top prospects, defensemen or otherwise.
Larsson won’t be coming over to North America for at least a year, and possibly longer, though I do think he’ll be stateside for the 2017-2018 season. When he does come over, he’s going to want to play in the NHL, and if he does play on Frolunda’s top pair this season, he very well could deserve that. However, he’s not there yet and I think that it’s more likely he spends some time in San Diego first, especially given the amount of depth Anaheim has on its blueline. Even if the Ducks trade a defensemen or two, Anaheim’s defensive prospect pool is incredibly deep, so Larsson will have some major competition for playing time when he does come over.
Larsson’s entry-level deal will kick in when he comes to North America and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. Given that he’s a first round talent and how well he played in Frolunda last year, I’ll be very surprised if the Ducks don’t extend him when his contract is up. But that’s a number of years away. For now, his focus is on Frolunda this year, and probably San Diego and Anaheim the following year.
My next prospect update will be on Brandon Montour.
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