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Larsen hoping to make jump to NHL next season

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

It may have just been a short glimpse, but the image the Dallas Stars got of 20-year-old defenseman Philip Larsen inspires great hope for the future.

Photo Gallery: Philip Larsen
Larsen made his NHL debut, skating in the Stars’ final two regular season contests, averaging 12:27 of ice time per game. He recorded his first NHL point, an assist on Steve Ott’s game-tying goal in the third period of the finale against Minnesota, and registered a +1 plus/minus rating.

Dallas management, as well as his new teammates, were suitably impressed with the young 5-foot-11, 185-pound blueliner’s performance, especially considering the distractions swirling around the games in which he participated. His debut was the home finale on April 8 that featured a great outpouring of emotion for Stars icons Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, who are considering retirement, as well as goaltender Marty Turco, who is becoming an unrestricted free agent. Then his second outing was what was likely Modano’s swan song in his and the franchise’s former home of Minnesota on April 10. The Stars won both in a shootout.

“I think it was very important,” Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk said of the chance to view Larsen, as well as young winger Aaron Gagnon, at the NHL level before the end of the season. “To give those guys an opportunity and to show them we appreciate the steps they’ve made this year was terrific for them. And for those guys to be a part of that night, with the last (home) game against Anaheim, I think to have that experience is going to benefit them. Philip Larsen, he has attributes that I think we’re really excited about. He’s very quick, he’s quick to pucks, he moves pucks and his future looks pretty bright.”

“I think he did a good job,” added Swedish defenseman Nicklas Grossman. “I saw him in camp and thought he was an exciting player to watch and play with. He has some great skills and he’s still really young. I think it’s great they can do it like this. He played in Sweden and they (lost in the playoffs), but he can come over here and play here. It’s his first two NHL games and he was just pumped.

“I think it’s great for young guys like that to go home over the summer and have this experience in the bag. They know that they’re capable of it. I think he played well, and I think he can be a great player. He’s young and it’ll be exciting to keep watching him.”

Larsen, a native of Esbjerg, Denmark, has played in the Swedish Elite League the past two seasons, under the tutelage of former Stars player and assistant coach Ulf Dahlen, who is now the head coach with Vastra Frolunda. Following his participation in Stars’ training camp last September, the smooth-skating Larsen went back to Frolunda and recorded one goal and 10 points in 42 games. 

“He’s a really good coach,” Larsen said of Dahlen. “He’s a fun guy, good guy, he’s really professional and he uses a lot of things from over here. I like him as a coach.”

After his club was eliminated in a seven-game first-round playoff series last month, he came to Dallas to learn and prepare for next season. Larsen, the Stars’ fifth-round selection (149th overall) in the 2008 Entry Draft, showed considerable progress from where he was back in September, when he posted a +2 rating in three pre-season contests.

“He’s made some real good strides,” said Les Jackson, the Stars’ Director of Scouting and Player Development. “He participated in a lot of the offensive parts of the game and Frolunda matched up with his talent. He had an impact in that league, so I see that he’s making some real good progress. Ulfie Dahlen and his group over there have done a real good job working with him.”

The agile, puck-moving defenseman, one of just a handful of NHL players from Denmark, made a positive impression on just about everyone involved with the Stars during his short visit, and seems to be a good fit for Stars coach Marc Crawford’s aggressive offensive-minded system that emphasizes the defensemen jumping into the attack.

“He’s a kid that played great in the pre-season and in a lot of ways, we’re excited to see where he’s at,” Crawford said. “He’s a skilled defenseman, he’s got a decent shot, but he’s more of a point guard, if you’re using the basketball analogy. He really does see the ice extremely well and his ability to pass and jump into plays and that sort of thing is at a very high level. He’s still a very young guy, though.” 

“I played with him in a pre-season game and he’s a good guy,” added defenseman Karlis Skrastins. “He has good skills, he’s a good skater, I think he has a little bit more to understand of the game here, but I think he’s a good defenseman. If he will come here, I think he will be a good help for our team. He can move, he can make a good first pass, that’s what this team needs.”

Larsen will likely remain in North America next season. If he’s unable to make the Stars’ roster out of training camp, then he’ll probably go down to the Texas Stars AHL team in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park and apprentice there. Either way, things look good for the Dallas defense moving forward.

“The kid can skate, can move the puck, and he’s a pretty good player,” noted top blueliner Stephane Robidas. “So I think if you look around the room, there’s a lot of good, young players in here. To me, everything looks bright for the future.”

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