Devils’ top pick Adam Larsson hopes to play in the NHL next season

It might seem strange to say that Adam Larsson “dropped” to the New Jersey Devils as the fourth pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but there were some who felt that way. Considering the (never fair) Nicklas Lidstrom comparisons some are drawing to Larsson, the consensus is that the Swedish defenseman will be the future of a Devils defense that has been decimated by free agent defections and retirement.

The Devils kicked off their prospect camps today, with Larsson getting his first spin on the ice with the organization. The Swedish defenseman received some one-on-one time with Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens and reportedly did pretty well in that first practice, although Mike Morreale did report that he experienced the occasional hiccup.

That being said, Larsson told NHL.com that he felt good about his first run and that he hopes to play at the NHL-level with the Devils next season. At the same time, Larsson also indicated that he would be flexible about his plans if that doesn’t work out. He also discussed contract negotiations with the Devils, although he didn’t get too detailed in that area.

Larsson and his agent, Claes Elefalk, have yet to set the parameters of an entry-level deal with Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello, but it’s in the works.

“We’re working on it and hopefully we can get something done,” Larsson said. “Of course, I want to start in the NHL, but I would play in the American Hockey League if that’s where they wanted me to go. That would be great, too … it wouldn’t bother me at all. If I go, I’ll go and then I can play everywhere.”

Larsson is under contract for one more season with Skelleftea in Sweden’s Elite League; while that wouldn’t keep him from beginning what is sure to be a prosperous NHL career this season, it’s possible he would return there to improve his overall game. Elefalk wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.

(snip)

“I feel I’m ready, but am still learning every day,” he said of being ready for the NHL. “I think if I do decide to play in North America, I want to feel very prepared for it. I’ll talk to Lou and see what his plan is for me, but of course I want to (play in the NHL) … that’s my goal. If I get the chance, I will take it.”

Either way, the Devils probably feel a lot better about the future of their defense today than they did at the end of the 2010-11 regular season. We’ll see if Larsson will be part of the 11-12 version soon enough.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel