By Ross MacLean
The talk of the tournament so far has been the play of Swedish captain Johan Larsson. Few were aware of just what this kid brings to the table before seeing him here in Bobruisk, Belarus.
Larsson was on the NHL radar already, but looked to be one of those last round picks of the draft who those outside of European scouting circles would know little about. However, that has definitely changed.
Larsson had a strong season with Brynas of the Swedish League this year, playing with fellow top Swede Ludvig Rensfeldt, who also happens to be his winger at the under-18 tournament. Larsson was third on his club team in scoring with 34 points in 40 games – also posting 80 PIMS - which is a far cry from his point-per-game average of four so far in this tournament.
Larsson has been to known to possess explosive offensive ability, but his true strength is how he can be a dominant two-way player. His offensive explosion will definitely catapult his draft ranking to new levels, as scouts love supposed defensive players who raise their game on the elite stage and demonstrate versatility. And versatility might just be Larsson's greatest attribute.
He is a dynamic and intelligent player who works extremely hard and is beyond competitive. His skill set isn't over the top or flashy by any means, but he does come with a bag of tricks he can rely on to create space when needed.
Larsson is physically solid and uses his strong 6-foot 198-pound frame well along the boards and when jockeying for space around the net. His offensive skills have an exclamation point next to them right now, but when an NHL team calls his name at this year's NHL draft in Los Angeles, it will be for his all-around game and ability to kill penalties - the promise of that offensive potential is just icing on the cake.
Ross MacLean is the head of European scouting and part of the management team at International Scouting Services. He specializes in major international tournaments and will cover the U-18s for THN.com throughout the event. Get more information about ISS at isshockey.com or purchase the 2010 NHL Draft Guide HERE.