After some initial uncertainty, Adam Larsson has really come a long way. The 23-year old defenseman indisputably established himself as one of the Devils’ long-term core assets after his remarkable turnaround in the first-half of the 2015 calendar year. To put it in perspective, Larsson only had one goal and four points from October to late-December of last season. He had a huge turnaround going into last January, putting up two goals and 20 points in the final 43 games (he appeared in 64 contests) of his fourth season with the organization. The makings led to Larsson’s best pro-season of his young career, and helped cement the Swedish-born defenseman as an NHL regular.
This year, Larsson is on the team’s top defensive pairing with Andy Greene. The two haven’t disappointed and played a huge role in the Devils’ stunning success this season. Although Larsson hasn’t put up the type of numbers he had in early 2015, he’s made up for it in other ways. He plays effectively in all three zones, is the second-most played defenseman and penalty killer, and leads the team in hits and blocked shots.
Having said that, Larsson has shown signs that he could be gearing up for another strong second-half like we saw last season.
This year, Larsson has two goals and 13 points in 49 games. We’re about a quarter into the 2016 section of the season, during which Larsson has thrived. He has a goal and six points in 11 contests this month, which nearly matches his entire offensive output in his first 38 games of the season. If Larsson is indeed projected to have another strong second-half, he’s off to a good start, and at a parallel pace to how his bountiful latter-half started last year.
Larsson’s goal totals between October and January of this and last season are relatively close. The only major difference is Larsson had 38 games under his belt going into January 2016, compared to a year ago when he only had 21. Although Larsson was expected to be more active offensively, he’s made up for it in ways I mentioned earlier. With 97 hits and 93 blocked shots, Larsson currently averages 2.0 hits and 1.9 blocked shots per game, with a whole half-season left to play. Last year, Larsson had 92 hits and 120 blocks in all 64 contests, respectively averaging 1.4 and 1.9 per game. Based on the stats, it can be inferred that Larsson has indeed, taken on more defensive responsibility, which can explain his dip in offensive stats this season.
Although the sample is small, there’s a vast difference in Larsson’s shot totals in 2016, compared to his first-half of the season. He has 11 shots in 11 games through January. He’s scored once, which gives him a 9.09 shooting percentage, and averages at least one shot per game. Through his first 38 games prior to January, Larsson’s one goal came off 28 shots, which equated to a 3.57 shooting percentage while averaging just .73 shots per game.
With the disparity in his playing time between the two different points of last season aside, you can see the same trend that developed in Larsson’s game last year. His goal and four points over the first 21 games in the 2014 portion of last season came off 22 shots. This equated to Larsson averaging just 1.04 shots per game and cashing in at a 4.5 shooting percentage. He had 69 shots in the 43 games he played in the 2015 part of last season. He averaged 1.60 shots per game, and scored two more goals with a 2.90 shooting percentage.
It might seem contradicting to prove Larsson is due for another big second-half by basing this hypothesis on last year’s numbers; especially when his shooting percentage last year, actually went down as the season progressed. While the goals didn’t come for Larsson last year and haven’t quite this year, the two things these numbers should point out are the increase in defensive responsibilities Larsson has taken on over the past year, and how Larsson’s overall point total increased when he was given more playing time and took more shots. Although Larsson wasn’t putting them in himself, plays were still happening, which started to result in goals for the Devils.
The numbers might suggest Adam Larsson is due to finish out the year with a bang, but probably not in the way we’re all hoping. While maintaining his defensive responsibilities that have been key to his play this season, Larsson’s point totals will steadily increase between now and the end of the season. He probably won’t score many goals, but when Larsson does shoot the puck, it seems to find its way into the net, one way or another. If that’s the case for Larsson and the Devils moving forward, this continuing trend could put the team in a solid position come playoff time.