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Larsson, Armia, Shalunov lead European rankings

by Mike G. Morreale
The preliminary European list ranks prospects by country, and Adam Larsson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman, tops the Swedish list. Many scouts believe Larsson, who turned 18 on Nov. 12, could be among the top three picks at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

"He's a complete package," NHL Director of European Scouting's Goran Stubb told "Now in his second season as a regular in one of the top senior leagues in Europe, he's going to play a big role."

Larsson is the third-youngest player ever to enter the Swedish Elite League -- at age 16 -- after Calle Johansson and Victor Hedman. In 49 games last season, he had 4 goals and 17 points with Skelleftea AIK, in addition to helping his country to a bronze medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship.

"Adam will, as it looks at present, be No. 1 on the European rankings before the 2011 Draft," Stubb said. "He's a big, strong defenseman with an excellent understanding of the game. He's a leader, cool and calm on ice, and knows where to be. His positional game is excellent and he uses his size and reach very well along the boards and in front of the net. He's surprisingly mobile and fast for a player of his size."

Armia, a 6-3, 187-pound forward who has been compared to Teemu Selanne, tops the Finnish rankings. He was competing against older players last season in the Assat junior system, and despite missing a month with the flu, managed 15 goals, 21 points and 32 penalty minutes in 27 games with the Under-20 team. He's playing left wing for Assat's team in the top Finnish league, SM-Liiga, team this season, and holding his own with 8 goals, 12 points and eight penalty minutes in 18 games. As a 16-year-old last season, he was a bright spot for a Finland squad that went 1-4 at the World Under-17's, scoring 5 goals and 8 points.

Shalunov, who tops the Russia rankings, is a little raw despite three games of experience in the KHL. In nine games with the Belie Medvedi Chelyabinsk in Russia's Minor Hockey League, the 6-3, 185-pound right wing is tied for scoring lead with 7 goals and 12 points.

Other top-rated European skaters include wing Dmitri Jaskin of the Czech Republic; defenseman Stephan Kronthaler of Germany; defenseman Jorgen Forgaard of Norway; and World Junior 'A' Challenge bronze medal-winning defenseman Dean Kukan of Switzerland.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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