Oscar Klefbom (77) and Adam Larsson of Edmonton
The defensive partners share a homeland and a philosophy of two-way play. And getting to speak in their native tongue on the ice only helps their chemistry
Ladies and gentlemen, your Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers. A lot has gone right this season for the former doormats, as the Oilers are getting epic performances from Connor McDavid (duh), Cam Talbot and many others – because you can't succeed on one player's back and Edmonton does have some nice variety in its lineup for once.
Helping out in that regard is the top defensive pairing of Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom. The two Swedes have known each other for years – fun fact, we once did a photo shoot at the draft combine with them, Victor Rask and Florida pick Rasmus Bengtsson – but this is their first year as a duo.
Larsson of course came over from New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, which, admittedly, has worked out pretty well for Edmonton. While the outside pressure may have seemed high on the defenseman, Larsson came to town with a level head.
“I mean, they didn’t trade for scoring like Taylor does," he said. "They traded for what I am and I’m not going to change that.”
And what is Larsson? Just ask his new partner, who also gets the bonus of speaking Swedish to him on the ice.
“First of all, he’s really good defensively," Klefbom said. "He’s a big body, but still a really good skater. I see him as a strong two-way defender who can bring some offense and I’m really impressed with how he’s been playing.”
Larsson believes Klefbom is pretty much a mirror image and he likes how much space the two can take up in their own end, without sacrificing mobility. It also helps to have an old buddy on the team (he also knew Anton Lander and Jonas Gustavsson before), since pulling up stakes in New Jersey was a bit of a band-aid ripping.
“Leaving all the friends I made in five years was probably the toughest part," Larsson said. "But I haven’t looked back since that day. Moving forward, it’s been a fun time and it’s going to get even more fun.”
Yeah, winning will do that. It's been a great year for Klefbom as well, since the 23-year-old is finally healthy. Last season was marred by a finger injury and then a staph infection, limiting Klefbom to just 30 games. Based on his skilled, two-way game, it's hard not to speculate how much better Edmonton would have fared last year with him in the lineup throughout. That makes this season's early success all the sweeter.
“We have a long way to go," Klefbom said. "But for me personally, it’s really fun to be out there again. Last season was tough, especially mentally, so it’s nice to be out with the guys.”
And if the two Swedes continue to munch minutes while McDavid drives the offense and Talbot holds down the crease, then we'll see playoffs in Edmonton for the first time in more than a decade. What's the Swedish word for "finally"?