A two way center of the future and perhaps the number one goalie of the future. That is what the Sabres hope they traded for earlier this week.
20 year old Johan Larsson was among the top prospects in the Minnesota Wild organization and is in his first season in North America. The native of Sweden was a second round pick in the 2010 draft and had an impressive career in his home land before coming over to this continent.
Last season, Larsson was the rookie of the year in the Swedish Elite League and had a strong playoff run as his team won a championship.
Prior to that, Larsson had captained the Swedish squad to a gold medal in the 2012 World Junior Championships. His international resume also includes a silver medal for the Swedes in the World Under-18 Championships when Larsson also wore the "C".
The 5-10, 200 pound Larsson played both wing and center for the Houston Aeros this season, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate. He was used in all situations and totaled 15 goals and 37 points in 62 games. At this point of his young career, Larsson is considered more proficient with the defensive aspects of the game rather than offense. He seems like to a good bet to be a third line center.
It will be interesting to see where Matt Hackett fits in since the Sabres might soon have a big opening in goal. Ryan Miller has one year left on his contract and will then be an unrestricted free agent. With the Sabres clearly in rebuilding mode, the team might want to move Miller this summer, assuming they don't want to sign him to a contract extension. For that matter, Miller might not want to stick around through the rebuild. Like Miller, Jhonas Enroth will be in the final year of his deal next season.
The 23 year old Hackett was a third round pick in 2009 and was considered the goalie in waiting for Minnesota. But Hackett was passed on the depth chart by fellow 09 draft pick Darcy Kuemper. He's in his third season in the minors. Hackett put up good numbers his first two years in the AHL. His goals against average was 2.37 and 2.38 while his save percentage was .916 and .917. In 2011, Hackett backstopped the Aeros all the way to the AHL's Calder Cup Finals where they lost to the Binghamton Senators.
This season, Hackett's numbers are off. His goals against is up to 2.66 and his save percentage has dropped to .907 but the Aeros have a very young team and have been hit hard by injuries on defense.