Next week the Buffalo Sabres will hit the ice at HARBORCENTER for training camp. This year it’s playoffs or bust for most fans, but is the roster talented enough for the Sabres to end its five year playoff drought?
As camp draws near, 7ABC will take a closer look at the training camp roster and put together our list of the “Top 20 Talents.”
Here’s the criteria on how the rankings will be established:
-Overall skill level
-Age, improving/declining ability
On to the countdown:
No. 16 – C Johan Larsson
Why he's here
Larsson finished the 2015-2016 season with 17 points in 74 games. While those numbers are unimpressive, Larsson had a nice second half of the season. The 24-year-old swede found chemistry with line-mates Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta. Like Foligno, Larsson signed a new one-year contract with the Sabres this offseason ($950K). Larsson is still young and has time to develop as a player but a solid season could go a long way to ensure he earns another contract in either Buffalo or elsewhere.
Larsson played his best last season with Foligno and Gionta. The future of that line remains uncertain heading into this season, with the addition of Kyle Okposo and return of Tyler Ennis. If the line stays together, Larsson needs to play like he did the second half of last season for an entire season. In his defensive zone Larsson was average but was rarely a liability. These one-year contracts the Sabres have handed out are very much "prove it" deals. If Larsson has a good year and the Sabres think he's worth a spot on this roster long term, he'll get another deal. If he has a bad season, Larsson may have two more years in Buffalo and then be on his way.
This is a big year for Larsson. I think he’s the perfect example of a player too good to play on a typical NHL fourth line but not good enough to play regularly in a top six role. While Larsson is on the ice this season the Sabres will have prospects in Rochester waiting for a shot. Larsson needs to prove he’s more valuable than one of the young prospects left off the team after training camp. I think Larsson will finish the year with better numbers than last season – but I don’t think it’ll be enough to earn a new contract.