As a consistent contender for two decades (more or less), the New Jersey Devils rarely enjoy the luxury of drafting a high first-round pick. That fact only makes Adam Larsson’s relatively modest development that much more glaring to less patient types.
After all, it’s easy to forget that the fourth overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft is still just 21 (he turns 22 on Nov. 12). As Devils blog In Lou We Trust states, it’s probably hasty to throw around the term “bust.”
The Devils should absolutely not trade Adam Larsson. I’ve seen among the fanbase a willingness to part with Larsson in fictitious trade proposals far too easily, and I feel this is merely because there is a perception that he’s either some kind of bust, or the Devils don’t need him anymore because of the other prospects in the system. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The emergence of [Eric] Gelinas and [Jon] Merrill should have no impact on the long term plans for Adam Larsson. Perhaps Devils fans have expected too much too soon out of such a young player, brand new to North American hockey. Perhaps Larsson himself added to those expectations through his jump right into the NHL.
Larsson is currently on a one-year, $900K “prove it” contract, although New Jersey could very well stick with him even if he suffers from another rocky season. Defensemen commonly take longer to develop than forwards – Justin Schultz thinks it’s too early to talk about his Norris hopes at 24, for instance – but with 128 regular season and five postseason games under his belt, there’s at least a decent sample of Larsson’s NHL work.
So, with that, here’s the question: how much better will Larsson get?
To jazz things up, let’s ponder his potential in the 2014-15 season as well as what kind of ceiling he has overall.
Again, note that this second poll ponders what you’d expect from his peak years; AHL-NHL split remains a choice just for consistency (and people who are really down on Larsson).
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.