EDMONTON, AB - If you listen to Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan talk about his players, there's a recurring theme among those entering their second year with the club. He said it for Andrej Sekera entering last season, and he says it for Milan Lucic and Adam Larsson this year.
The first season can be quite the challenge.
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Whether by free agency or trade, if a player is thrust into a new city with new teammates, new coaches and new systems, it inevitably takes time to adjust. Larsson was no stranger to the effects of a tumultuous summer of switching squads.
The defenceman was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on June 29, 2016. One moment, he's a Devil. The next, he's wrapping his head around moving to Western Canada. Then he's packing his bags and moving to Oil Country, where he'd take on a big role in year one.
When asked what the biggest struggle was in his first year with Edmonton, Larsson says, "everything."
"Everything was new, even the coaches, the systems, the players I had on my side," he said. "I just had to get used to it in the beginning. Some days were harder than others, but I thought it ended pretty good. I feel a lot more calm this year coming to the city and the team. It's all positive."
Now the 2017-18 season is within sight, but it's a completely different feeling for Larsson than it was last September.
"I kind of came here after my summer break at home and it almost felt like I came home again," said Larsson. "I came in with a different mindset this year. I'm a lot calmer, and it's easier when I know the guys around me too. It helps a lot."
Larsson figures to take on just as big of a role with the Oilers this year as he did last season. The 24-year-old defender now has more than 350 NHL games under his belt. Last year, he became a solid, stabilizing presence on the Oilers blueline, and he combined with Oscar Klefbom to make quite the Swedish defensive duo. Klefbom has credited Larsson in the past for helping him evolve into more of an offensive weapon. The blueliner compiled a career high 12 goals and 38 points in 2016-17, with Larsson as his primary partner.
Larsson says he had a productive off-season and he's ready to hit the ground running come the regular season. These exhibition games help him get his legs going, and help bring back that chemistry he had with Klefbom.
"You have to find your game early, even if it's pre-season," he said. "You want to get to know your body, your skating ability and see on the ice what you worked on all summer. It's good to get these games in."
For Larsson, he's come back to Edmonton a more calm and confident player. He's settled into his new surroundings, and that bodes well for a big season from number six. He expects nothing less from himself.
"I do every year. You always want to grow as a player, individually," Larsson said. "I put in a lot of work in the summer too. You always go into the season feeling like you gave it all in the off-season.
"I feel ready."