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Adam Larsson ready to take next step with Oilers

Defenseman believes he's capable of more after trade from Devils

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Defenseman Adam Larsson had what many considered to be a breakout season with the New Jersey Devils in 2015-16.

Now with the Edmonton Oilers, Larsson, the No. 4 pick at the 2011 NHL Draft, expects to continue his development this season into a top-pairing defenseman, and perhaps expand his role.

"I think I can take an even bigger step," Larsson said Monday in his first public appearance since being acquired by Edmonton for left wing Taylor Hall on June 29. "There was a lot of focus on defense and penalty kill last year and the next step is to be more offensive, and hopefully, get more power-play time."

Hall led Edmonton in scoring last season with 26 goals and 65 points in 82 games. Larsson, 23, had three goals, 15 assists and a plus-15 rating in 82 games for the Devils. He expects his production to increase with greater responsibility.

Video: RAW | Adam Larsson

"My first year in the League, I played a lot of power play. But these past four years, it's been a lot of defense and penalty killing," Larsson said. "Obviously, playing with [Devils defenseman] Andy Greene and against top lines is something I took big pride in."

The Oilers hope Larsson fills a void on their blue line which was desperate for a right-handed shot and puck-moving defenseman. Edmonton paid a heavy price to acquire Larsson, trading one of their most popular players in Hall, the No. 1 pick in 2010.

"They are obviously big shoes to fill," Larsson said. "He's a forward and I'm a D-man and it's different, but New Jersey got a really good player and I'm happy to be here. It's going to be a lot of fun. Looking at the group, it's a really young group, and especially now with the new rink (Rogers Place), I think it's going to be a good, new fresh start for everyone. Coming here with this group here, I don't think I could be any happier to play with these guys."

Larsson met a handful of his new teammates for the first time Monday as a participant in the Celebrity Pro-Am portion of the Syncrude Oil Country Championship golf tournament hosted by the Oilers Entertainment Group. The event featured current Oilers and alumni.

"It's obviously tough to lose Taylor, but in Adam we have a great D-man and a great addition to the team that we really need," said Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was the No. 1 pick in 2011. "I went through the whole draft process with him and I definitely thought it was between me and him [to go No. 1] because he was the D-man and I was the centerman. I got to know him a little bit there and we only get to play against each other a couple of times a year, but obviously he's a tough guy to play against and it's going to be good for our team."

Video: NYR@NJD: Larsson scores on the empty net

Larsson entered the NHL as a highly touted defenseman who could contribute at each end of the ice. He played on New Jersey's top pair with Greene last season, averaging 22:31 of ice time per game.

"I always see myself as a two-way defenseman, but you kind of have to realize it usually takes a little bit longer for D-men to be where you want to be in this League," Larsson said. "I didn't really get stressed because I didn't get the role I wanted because it takes time. You're young and you're still learning. I think with that, Jersey did a fairly good job with me and with [former Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] there, he didn't stress me out and obviously last year was a step in the right direction."

Larsson is part of the revamped Oilers, who selected forward Jesse Puljujarvi with the No. 4 pick at this year's draft and signed unrestricted free agent forward Milan Lucic. Edmonton has not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2005-06 NHL season. 

"My overall feeling is that I'm very excited to be here," Larsson said. "I came here in late July to kind of meet the players and the staff to kind of get a little bit of a feel and more comfortable moving forward. I'm looking forward to the season."

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