Checking in at #21 in the Top 25 Under 25 is Filip Larsson, the first goalie to appear on this list so far. Goaltender is a position of concern in the Red Wings current system, with no realistic options to take the reigns from the Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier tandem for at least a few seasons. With the team not ready to contend until some veteran contracts are jettisoned and the youth have adequately filled the ranks, the question is will their be a keeper ready to backstop that team.
Goaltenders are always a difficult position to project especially for ones that have yet to break into the professional ranks, such is the case with Larsson currently playing in the NCAA.
Glove Hand: Left
Born: Aug 17, 1998 (Age:19)
Birthplace: Stockholm, SWE
Drafted: 2016, Round #6, #167 Overall
Current Team: University of Denver
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 181 lbs
Recent Statistics: 2017-18 USHL, Tri-City Storm, 30GP, 1.65 GAA, .941 SV%
Larsson has the potential to be quite the late round gem, following in a long line of well scouted Swedish players by Hakan Andersson and Co. Following being drafted by the Red Wings in 2016 Larsson saw a significant uptick in his numbers going from a 3.86 GAA and .872 SV% in 19 GP in 2015-16 to a 2.24 GAA and .925 SV% in 31 GP in 2016-17 with his Djurgardens club in the SuperElit J20 league in Sweden as arguably the top goalie in his league that season.
Following his last season in the SuperElit J20 league his play was impressive enough to have him drafted 8th overall in the USHL Entry Draft by the Tri-City Storm. Larsson made the jump to the USHL, adjusting his game for the North American ice surface during the 2017-18 season. During that season he posted an impressive 1.65 GAA, .941 SV%, in 30 GP, which were league best numbers, during an injury shortened season; suffering what appeared to be a significant groin injury. His play was good enough to earn him First All-Star Team and Goaltender of the Year honours. Obviously these types of awards give Red Wings fans a reason to be excited of what Larsson could become. However it should be noted that the list of previous winners of this award are not exactly a who’s who of NHL goalies. Larsson’s play earned him a spot on the Swedish WJC team last season as the backup to Filip Gustavsson, a team that took home the silver medal.
Looking beyond his statistics, the Wings goaltending development coach said Larsson is “a very good blocking goalie” and that he “covers space effectively into his posts and he’s very calm”. These are good things to hear about a goalie prospect, albeit from a Wings staff member who wouldn’t exactly want to disclose the player’s weaknesses. A similar evaluation by his USHL coach in Tri-City said “he doesn’t put himself in a bad situation to have to do that (unbelievable save)”.
It’s a good sign that he’s able to block pucks rather than use athleticism to make saves as relying on the latter often doesn’t transition well to the pro game and the skill level of the shooters he’d ultimately be facing. This is in contrast to say a goaltender like Petr Mrazek who relied more on his athleticism for spectacular saves but also got himself into trouble with his aggressive play. Larsson’s size isn’t overwhelming at 6’2” and 181 lbs but assuming he adds some weight as he progresses he’ll fall right in line around the average NHL size for a goaltender.
Larsson is preparing for the 2018-19 season, his first in the NCAA with the University of Denver. He’ll show what he’s capable of against men instead of teenagers. It’s unknown right now if he will be the starter there from Game 1 as there are a couple prospects with aims to take that role. If he plays well enough though, Wings management may make a push to get him signed to a professional contract after a couple college seasons and have him make the move to the AHL as soon as the 2020-21 season. He’ll likely have to play at least two seasons there as well before getting any real chance to make an impression at the NHL level. So the soonest we would likely see him in a Red Wings uniform is the 2022-23 season at age 24, lining up well with when the Red Wings are hopefully making their push for a return to contender status.
What do you think of Filip Larsson being ranked #21?
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