Known for his role with the Edmonton Oilers as a shutdown defender who eats up monster minutes on the blueline, Adam Larsson is doing the same for his native Sweden in the 2018 IIHF World Championship playing over 22 minutes a game shutting down the other team's best players, but as his team plays for the gold medal today in the final against Switzerland, Swedish head coach Richard Gronborg has given him the green light to explore his offensive game more and be more active in the offensive attack.
"He's been tremendous, just tremendous," the coach said of his 6-foot-3, 210-pound blueliner playing in his second world championship. "I think you can see that he's more than just a shutdown defenseman. It's kind of fun to see him let loose a little bit here in the offensive end and, obviously, we encourage that because we don't see him as just being a shutdown defenseman, but we also know he's very dependable in his own end and break up plays and get the puck out quickly."
Larsson, who missed nearly 20 games this season with different minor injuries, said it was an "absolute yes" when he was invited to represent his country because he felt he "had a lot of really good hockey left in him this season" and Gronborg agrees.
"I went over to see him play a couple games at the end of the season and I was really impressed," he explained. "You can tell his legs feel fresh and he feels good. He's just become so strong and dependable. He's taken pretty big steps, but we also know there's a little bit more offensive in his game than he's been able to show in Edmonton.
"When he was younger, I saw a lot of that offensive game from him," Gronborg continued. "Now, he has a little bit of a different role on his club team, but it's not like he forgot how to do those things offensively. That's why we're playing him a little bit differently here. We know he's got another dimension to his game and we want to see what he's got."
Through nine games, Larsson has a goal and three assists and said he's paying extra attention to Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona) and John Klingberg (Dallas).
"I'm watching them a lot - you can't help but watch them, they're so good - but especially with their offensive game," the 25-year-old said. "I want to see if there's anything they do that I can add to my game and help me become more active on the offensive side of the puck too. I don't play very offensive in Edmonton, but here the coaches encourage me to do a little bit more and be more involved with the offense and not just a shutdown guy. I used to play that way - more offensive. Why not do it again?"
The opportunity to learn and try new things is one of the big reasons Larsson enjoys playing for Sweden's national team, something he's also done twice at the U18 world championships and twice at the world junior championship where he's earned a silver and bronze respectively.
"It's a big opportunity to learn and to play in meaningful games with a lot of intensity, but it's also a huge honor just to play for your country and the atmosphere has been great. Every game has felt like a home game," he said. "Hearing the crowd during the national anthem gives me goosebumps."
Copenhagen is a 20-minute drive across the Oresund Bridge from Sweden and the Tre Kronor fans have dominated the crowd in and around Royal Arena."I want to hear the anthem one more time," he continued. "I want to win a gold medal. That'd be sick."