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Oilers expect big things from Adam Larsson

Will miss Taylor Hall but understand trade for 23-year-old defenseman

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- The core members of the Edmonton Oilers knew changes were coming after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 10th consecutive time last season.

That didn't make it any easier to see left wing Taylor Hall traded to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29.

"Obviously you see it on Twitter. It kind of happened all of a sudden, so it was just a little bit of a surprise, I guess," center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "But it's obviously tough to lose Taylor, but in Adam we got a great D-man and a great addition to the team that we really need.

"I spent five years with [Hall], so it's tough in that sense. … It's been kind of talked about for the past few years now and we've added some great players into that core group, so you kind of know something like that is going to happen when we're in the same position that we have been in the past few years, so hopefully, we can get ourselves out of this and turn it around."

Hall, 24, who was selected No. 1 by Edmonton in the 2010 NHL Draft, was expected to be the cornerstone of a rebuild for the Oilers, who lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes in their most recent playoff appearance.

Video: RAW | Adam Larsson

Hall developed into one of the most productive forwards in the NHL -- his 26 goals and 65 points led the Oilers last season -- but Edmonton did not improve, prompting general manager Peter Chiarelli to make major roster changes.

"I was actually in Mexico at my sister's wedding, so, yeah, I turned my phone on and had a bunch of texts," right wing Jordan Eberle said. "I don't want to say I was shocked. I think I kind of knew something was going to happen. You just kind of didn't know what happened.

"I think [Hall] will do really well there. I've talked to Taylor a few times and I think he's really excited, and I actually just got to meet Adam today, so I know he's excited to be here, so he's definitely going to help our team."

The Oilers (31-43-8) were seventh in the Pacific Division last season despite having four No. 1 selections (Hall, 2010; Nugent-Hopkins, 2011; Nail Yakupov, 2012; Connor McDavid, 2015) in their lineup. Edmonton has finished no better than 11th in the Western Conference standings since it was ninth in 2007-2008.

"We're going to miss [Hall], he's a great teammate, a good friend and was a big part of this organization," forward Matt Hendricks said. "But like everyone says, it is a business and we need to get better, and that was one of the areas that, you know, we had to find a defenseman, so I look forward to playing with Adam."

Larsson, 23, who was selected with the No. 4 pick by New Jersey in the 2011 draft, had three goals and 18 points in 82 games last season with the Devils and is the right-shot, puck-moving defenseman the Oilers desperately needed.

"I met him today. Great kid. Kind of quiet, I'm going to have to shake that out of him a little bit, but I'm really looking forward to him," Hendricks said before teeing off in the pro-am event of the Syncrude Oil Country Championship golf tournament hosted by Oilers Entertainment Group. "When I had the chance to talk to [Devils coach] John Hynes … over at the World Championships, he told me the type of player that he was. I look forward to being his teammate and helping him get comfortable here in Edmonton and help turn this thing around."

Video: Analyzing Wednesday's Hall for Larsson trade

While Larsson was excited to join a young team heading into a new arena, Rogers Place, for the 2016-2017 season, Hall, at least initially, was disappointed to leave Edmonton, referring to the trade as "an indictment on me as a hockey player."

"I know for sure he was a little bit upset originally," Eberle said. "Knowing him, he really wanted to be a guy that was going to be here when things started to get good. And not only that, but obviously the new arena, I think he was excited about that. I think he's probably had a few weeks to digest it and I think he's probably excited for his new challenge in Jersey and playing in the East."

Prior to the trade, the Oilers selected right wing Jesse Puljujarvi with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft. They then signed forward Milan Lucic on the first day of free agency on July 1. Each player is expected to make up a portion of the offense lost with the departure of Hall.

"Obviously with [Lucic], we all know what he brings," Hendricks said. "Never played on his team. I've played a lot against him, played in playoff series against him when I was in Washington, and he's a beast and we need more of that. I'm excited that he's coming because has that top line mentality and he can play those big minutes, top power play, first line. He has a lot of success there and he brings another element to our team that I think is very important."

The Oilers will miss Hall's dynamic offensive abilities and leadership in the locker room but hope to be a better overall team this season.

"Taylor, he can just manufacture points any time in the game, and it's hard to find players like that," Hendricks said. "We're looking to improve, but you don't improve just by just making one big move, it takes time and we feel that Adam is going to be a big player for us that is going to help us be a better team pushing for the playoffs."

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