2015-16 Buffalo Sabres Grades: Johan Larsson
The Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 season featured plenty of new faces that helped the team finally dig their way out of the league basement. We're grading everybody who played at least 20 games for the Sabres this year, from Bogosian to Ullmark.
Contract: $800,000, under contract through next season at $950,000
Introduction: Johan Larsson was brought to Buffalo via trade from Minnesota, and was looked at as a player who could potentially grow into a top-six forward role. While that has not happened to this point, Larsson proved this season that he can be a contributor in a smaller capacity, finding some great chemistry on the third line with Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta toward the end of the season.
Key Stat: 10 points in 18 games. That's what Larry accumulated in March and April of this season after just seven points in the previous 56 games. We know that small sample sizes can be deceiving, but this is the kind of production many people thought Larsson could grow in to as he matured. The real question will be if he can keep it up next season, or if this was just a flash in the pan.
Thumbs Up: Larsson set new career highs in goals (10), points (17) and games played (74) this season, and half of his goals this year were game winners. Lars also racked up 113 hits, good for 8th on the team, which seemed like a surprisingly high number when I first saw it, but upon further consideration, I was reminded that he does play a nice, physical game along the boards that suited his third line role this year very well. As the center on the third line, he's second on the team behind ROR in faceoff win percentage, at 51.1%, and had one of the best shooting percentages on the team this year at 10.5%.
Thumbs Down: Despite setting new career high point totals, Larsson's offensive game still disappears for long stretches far more often than you'd like - I mean, the guy had a total of two points from November through January. Yikes. Despite being used on a defensive third line, he doesn't get much time on special teams, and doesn't go out of his way to block shots. His consistency in effort from game to game has improved, but Larsson still needs to work on his defensive positioning, especially if he's going to settle into the shutdown third line role he was thrust into this year.
Memorable Moment: Larsson's only fight this season came against the Boston Bruins and Max Talbot, and proved that he can hold his own in a scrap.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Johan Larsson on his performance this year.
Grade Johan Larsson's 2015-16 season.