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Adam Larsson might return this weekend from injury

by Mike G. Morreale
Reports out of Sweden are that defenseman Adam Larsson, the No. 1-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list of the top draft-eligible European players, could return to the lineup as early as this weekend.

A groin injury, which has apparently hampered Larsson all season, has kept the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner sidelined since the completion of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

Larsson, who did play in the semifinals and bronze-medal game at the WJC, supposedly pushed it a little too much and is now on the mend. It probably didn't help that he was on the receiving end of a booming check by Team Canada and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Ryan Johanson in the tournament semifinal. Larsson was hit so hard, his feet came off the ice as he went back-first into his own goalpost.

Larsson is in the midst of his second season playing for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. He's projected to be a top five pick in the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Larsson represented Sweden at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at the tournament this past season with 1 goal and 4 points. He's currently playing for Skellefea AIK in Elitserien, where he's produced 7 assists, 8 points and 37 penalty minutes in 28 games.

Two of Larsson's teammates on this year's Swedish National Junior Team praised their impressive young defenseman when asked for comparisons to current Tampa Bay Lightning defender Victor Hedman.

"I think Adam is better than Hedman in his draft year, but that's my opinion," said Larsson's WJC defensive partner and Sweden's alternate captain, Fredrik Styrman."He's more stick handling and can move the puck quick. That's the big thing, and he can hit too. He's a strong guy and he's big. I think he has a great future (in North America)."

Goalie Robin Lehner, who was drafted in the second round by the Ottawa Senators in 2009, feels very confident with Larsson patrolling his end.

"Hedman was big, of course, and strong and Adam is smaller but he makes up for that with smartness," Lehner told "He's really smart with the puck and tough. He won't back down from anything and even fought a 30-year-old in Swedish league. He just has this glow in his eyes … you know he's going to be a great player."

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