Friday, June 24, 2011

Devils draft Larsson at 4, Isles take Strome at 5

During the Devils' dark days in December and early January, all I read on various internet message boards was the phrase 'Lose for Larsson...or L4L', in reference to Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson (above) - who was then thought of as the potential #1 pick in this year's draft. A funny thing happened on the way to the draft though, the Devils did nothing but win in the second half and yet through an odd twist of fate the Devils still wound up getting Larsson, a potential backbone on their blueline for years to come. And they did it without selling out or settling for losses even in the final days and weeks when they were officially out of the playoffs.

Larsson has been widely described as the most NHL-ready defenseman in the draft and a good two-way player in the making, surely music to the ears of Lou Lamoriello and scouting director David Conte, who as usual announced the pick to the Minnesota audience and the thousands braving the rain to watch the big LED screen outside the Prudential Center. Not only does Larsson have offensive potential with a big point shot (and a right-handed shot at that, something we've been missing for a while) but also has size at 6-2 and nearly 200 pounds as an 18 year old and plays the part with a physical game.

While I was campaigning for Gabriel Landeskog in an earlier blog, in the back of my mind I figured Larsson would be gone in the first three picks anyway, especially after Colorado traded John-Michael Liles to the Leafs which some speculated could have opened up a spot for Larsson but instead they took Landeskog. If Lou really wanted him, he handled it strangely since it was publicly obvious Lou and Conte really took to the kid. Or perhaps it was more of a poker tactic, hyping up the guy you like a little to get the guy you like a lot (Larsson). Figures once again Pierre McGuire gushed over a Devils pick, calling Larsson the 'steal of the draft'. If a fourth overall's a steal I can't wait to see this kid play.

The only drama with the pick came beforehand when rumors started up again about a possible Brent Burns trade with the Wild, possibly contingent on who Florida took at three. Fortunately we didn't have to find out whether the rumor was true or not since Florida took Johnathan Huberdeau and left Larsson for us. Interestingly, Lou was the first GM to congratulate the Bruins on their Stanley Cup win and also the first to acknowledge the fans who showed up to the draft party. Of course, Larsson was the only one of the first several picks who wasn't interviewed by TSN - probably a Lou embargo. Oh well, hopefully we'll have many chances to hear him in the months and years ahead.

Right after the Devils' pick the Isles took center Ryan Strome, providing a nice complement to recent #1 overall John Tavares. Instead of announcing the pick himself, GM Garth Snow allowed former first-rounder Kyle Okposo to do it. Ironically when center Sean Coutrier fell to the eighth pick, the Flyers scooped up the big man, who was once touted as a possible #1 overall with Larsson. Ironic both because he could eventually fill the void created by trading both their franchise centers in the matter of hours yesterday and also because their reasoning for trading them was in part because they floated and relied on their talent. Coutrier slipped in part because of that same rep. If they have the success with Coutrier they had with those two though it'll be an excellent pick, unfortunately.

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