BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - After eight seasons in the NHL, Adam Larsson has solidified himself as one of the most reliable shutdown defencemen in the league.
He regularly logs more than 20 minutes a game for the Edmonton Oilers, usually playing against the other team's top lines, and his biggest contributions to the team will never be recognized on a stat sheet.
Usually, he likes it that way.
"I take a lot of pride in what I do with the Oilers," said the 6-foot-3, 210 pound blueliner. "I like shutting down other teams, playing hard, blocking shots. I don't care if I'm on the scoresheet or not. I just want to help keep the puck out of our zone and out of our net."
But whenever he has the opportunity to play for Team Sweden, like he's doing this month at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia, things are a little different.
"Our defensemen are very involved in the offense," explained Sweden's head coach Rikard Gronborg. "We play a strong attacking game and I think that's one of the reasons Adam likes to come and play for us. He was really excited about that last year. He's like, 'I forgot I can do that.' But, that's the way I remember him from his junior years and when he got drafted and years before that, so it's nice to see that it's still there and that he's really enjoying the way we're playing."
This is Larsson's third appearance at the tournament, including last year when Sweden won back-to-back gold medals in Copenhagen, and he loves the additional offensive opportunities that come with playing on the larger ice surface.
"I really like it," he said with a big smile that couldn't hide his feelings. "There's just more room and you can take more chances and... I just have a lot of fun out there."
Just like in Edmonton, Gronborg intends to give Larsson monster minutes simply because he's so reliable in every situation.
"We can use utilize him on a power play and penalty kill. We can use him anywhere we want - defensive draws, offensive draws, if we're behind a goal, if we're up a goal, if we're headed into the last minute. Whatever the situation, we know we can put Adam out there and he will do a good job," he explained. "He might not have a letter on his jersey, but he's definitely one of our leaders and it's because of his tremendous example on the ice."
While Larsson averages 20 minutes a night for Sweden, he credits their recent success at this tournament to their ability to come together so quickly as a team.
"I'm not sure how or why, but Team Sweden is really good at getting the group together," the 26-year-old Skelleftea native said. "We have a pretty good team every year, but every team that's won has been really close. Obviously we've got great coaching and players and leaders in the room, but we have really, really good chemistry and I think it plays a big part in our success."
As Larsson and his teammates aim for a three-peat, they feel the pressure as this is a huge tournament in the eyes of Swedish hockey fans, but he is quick to point out that it's a new team with new players and anything can happen, but that's part of the appeal of playing for his national team.
"There's definitely a lot of pride in playing for your country and your family back home and the guy next to you. I'll never hesitate anytime they ask me to play in this tournament," he said. "There's a lot to learn from all the different perspectives from the coaches and players. Every year, it's different, but I think that's what makes it enjoyable."
He continued: "Obviously, everybody here would love to play the Stanley Cup playoffs, but we're here right now and trying to make the most of it."
Larsson has one assist and is +5 through three games, while Sweden is 2-1 in pool play and currently third in Group B standings. They will face Austria on Thursday.