The new season of minor league hockey play has begun, the fans check the stat lines nightly, and we all prep ourselves for weekend trips to the rink. With each new season, there is a two-fold product unfurled for us on the ice – new faces & familiar vets. Like any good hockey fan, I attend games locally and cheer my team to victory. As one that not only cheers, but actively writes about minor league hockey, I find that viewing and critiquing the enemy is as important as following your own fan persuasions.
The Oklahoma City Barons home opener was a hot mess of excitement. Following a season opener for the Barons where they were drubbed 7-0 in Cedar Park, Texas, less than a week later they’d meet the same team on home ice, but with different results. The Barons delved out a dose of beat down greater than that of the Stars, and punished the boys from the south 10-1 in which every line scored once, and sometimes twice. If last season’s Linus Omark 5+1 goals in one game was the greatest individual performance of the young Barons, this 10-1 victory was the greatest team effort. Needless to say, the team looked good. The Stars, the complete opposite.
But we know better. The season is young, the Stars have promise, and another 10 fold pounding will probably not happen again. The Stars indeed have a healthy dose of good goaltending, young and old forwards, and a recent history of success that demands our respect. With a new coach in tow, even he will have to warm up to the new season, and I fully expect the Stars to rebound once again to the top spot in the West. They just can’t help themselves.
One such player for the Stars that continues to catch my eye is Philip Larsen. The Esbjerg, Denmark native, and 5th round draft pick of the Dallas Stars, is a headsy defenseman. He’s a slight frame at 6′ 1″ 183, but he’s very intelligent. Since crossing the pond during the 09-10 season, he’s only seen 11 NHL games. That’s still a fine mark for such a young prospect. In 10-11, his rookie season, he played 54 games with the Texas Stars where he earned four goals and seventeen assists. Even more impressive were his post season totals in six games – 2-3-5. He also found himself with the big club in Dallas for six games where he had two assists and a +1 rating. Larsen, who was inserted into the Dallas Stars lineup with Adam Pardy recovering from a rib injury, returned to the Texas Stars this season after playing three full NHL games with steady time on ice. Enough to prove to both minor and major league Stars fans that he will be an important defenseman for the organization as time marches on.
Thus the 10-1 loss by the Stars at the hands of the Barons might not have been the best time to see young Larsen in action again, but I was up for the task. Here’s my take on Philip Larsen.
The Angel of Angles
Philip Larsen is very intelligent D man. And it starts and ends with his angles. Whether he’s 10 feet away from the puck or 20 feet, Larsen knows were to stand. If he were a chess master, he’d already have you beat three moves prior. He finds the precise angle to a) muck up a scoring chance or b) remove you from the puck. This is where Larsen stands apart from other defesemen in the minors, and ultimately has him within a breath of becoming a full-time NHLer. Quite honestly, he’s the type of defensive player that the Barons/Oilers are looking for. So far, none comes close within the confines of the OKC farm club.
Not Quick, Precise
I like my defensemen precise rather than quick, and Larsen epitomizes this quality. Rarely does Larsen need to chase you from behind because rarely does anyone get around him. The precision with which he plays the activity from the net to the blue line is a thing of beauty. Although the team as a whole got abused on Sunday night, Larsen seemed the most precise with his play.
A defenseman that can move the puck up the ice causes GM’s to lose their breath mainly because they are a hot commodity. Moving the puck from the defensive end to the offensive end cleanly is an art form that is lost on most D men in the modern hockey landscape. Larsen isn’t a perfect puck mover, but his passes are seamless. They hit offensive players on the tape, and rarely are deflected. A high hockey IQ is the culprit here, as well as a healthy dose of a solid fundamentals of the game and how it should be played. I could watch Philip Larsen dial in a perfect, cross-ice pass every night. He’s that fine tuned.
Make Me A Play
As a result of said passing, Larsen is a play maker. He knows where to pass, when to pass, and whom to pass to. In Oklahoma City, he was taking a beating along the boards, but only lost the puck twice by my account. This is where the play-making begins – in your own zone, controlling the puck. I’m anxious to see Larsen again in the Cox Center for this reason alone. He’s prone to start scoring threats in his own end, and that’s a huge bonus for any team.
Philip Larsen is a promising young American Leaguer who’ll no doubt play some minutes in Dallas this season. Classifying him is difficult because he does so many things right, but he certainly exudes the correct play from the defensive perspective. I like Larsen. And as a fan of the Dallas Stars, I like what he brings to the table. Along with Brenden Dillon and a defense-informed coach in Glen Gulutzan, the future is fine and dandy for the Stars blue line. Philip Larsen included.