Defenseman Philip Larsen
made outstanding strides with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League this past season, and the Stars’ 2008 fifth-round draft pick has solidified himself as a prospect with legitimate hopes to don the black, green and gold sooner rather than later.
He is set to return to Frolunda for another season in 2009-10, but his head coach – former Stars player and assistant coach – Ulf Dahlen said that the 19-year-old Larsen has shown the potential to compete for a roster spot in Dallas in the very near future.
“He started the season as our number-eight defenseman, but he played just as hard as you can play and he was just outstanding for us,” said Dahlen, who led Frolunda to a third-place finish in the league, and a berth in the playoff semifinals in his first year behind the bench. “He figured out that defending was the main part of playing the position. Once he got into a consistent groove, he played hard, defended first and continued to show his top offensive qualities. As a young guy, playing against men, he pushed some of the older guys out of the lineup, including a defenseman who plays with the Finnish national team.”
The first Danish defenseman to ever be drafted by an NHL club, Larsen characterized his first full season in the Swedish Elite League as a valuable learning experience, one he hopes to build on going forward. He collected 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists) and 18 penalty minutes with a +7 rating in 53 games, to lead all club defenseman in plus/minus, and place second among Frolunda rearguards in assists and third in points.
“I think I had a pretty good season, I got quite a bit stronger and I feel much more comfortable on the ice at a higher level,” said the 5-11, 185-pound blue-liner. “That was the most important thing about last season, getting better, getting stronger and improving my overall game. I wasn’t thinking about playing against older guys, I just had to focus on my game and play my best, no matter what. I like to get a lot of ice time and you have to work hard to earn that, and I was just trying to compete and get better every day.”
Dahlen praised Larsen’s rapid improvement and development of key defensive qualities, and envisions the young Dane as a key piece to his Frolunda club in 2009-10.
“Philip has really good positioning in the defensive zone and he’s a very smart player on the ice,” said Dahlen. “He has really good vision and reads plays extremely well. He is very quick moving the puck, starting the play and joining the offensive attack. He’s a very confident player and he’s now getting a good summer of working out.
“When we find out that he’ll be here for one more year before he joins the Stars, he will definitely be counted on to be a much bigger piece to our team. We’re glad he’ll be back here and it’ll do him well to have another year of preparation before he joins the Dallas organization. If he keeps getting better and working as hard as he did last year, he’ll be pushing for a spot in Dallas in another year.”
A native of Esbjerg, Denmark, Larsen has represented his country in various international tournaments for the last five seasons and counts his experiences at that level as invaluable to his development.
“Every day I’m with the national team, I’m so proud to put on a Danish jersey,” said Larsen. “It’s fun to compete against some of the big countries and of course, it’s a great honor to represent your country. It’s always so intense, and everybody pushes so much harder. It’s a lot of fun to play in those situations and that’s where you want to be. Denmark has made really big steps in the right direction over the last five or six years, and the whole hockey community there is hoping to continue getting better.”
Larsen is sure to continue getting better under the tutelage of Dahlen and in his country’s national team program, and will show the Stars’ management staff his abilities at the club’s training camp this Fall. If his dramatic development last season is any indication, it certainly won’t be the last time he’ll be skating in Dallas.