Flyers prospect Larsson is already a bully
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Fredric Larsson doesn’t know much about the history of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“[Pelle] Lindbergh, [Peter] Forsberg and [Nicklas] Grossmann,” the tall, Swedish defensive prospect replied when asked what he knew about the Flyers.
He’s not up on his Broad Street Bullies or Bobby Clarke.
Ah, but the 18-year-old knows a little something about Philadelphia pop culture.
“My favorite movie is Rocky Balboa,” said Larsson, one of 43 players at the Flyers' rookie/prospect camp this week at Skate Zone.
Larsson can’t wait to visit the Rocky statue at the Art Museum and climb the steps.
There’s a line in the movie with Rocky talking about having to withstand a knockdown punch for Apollo Creed.
“It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
That line means everything to the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Larsson, who's a physical defenseman who likes to hit.
“It’s about the harder you get hit,” Larsson said. “I’m gonna get a tattoo here with that line on it. It’s my first tattoo. It’s gonna be nice.”
On July 19, Rocky’s line will be tattooed somewhere on Larsson’s chest or down his side, he said.
Now that’s what it’s like being a Flyer, even if a guy never heard of Dave Schultz. So is this: while other Swedish kids grew up with Forsberg or Nick Lidstrom’s picture on their wall, Larsson didn’t.
His Swedish hero? Niklas Kronwall, the tough-as-nails Red Wings defenseman.
“Kronwall has big hits and I try for that,” Larsson said, adding that San Jose lumberjack defenseman Douglas Murray, is another favorite of his.
“I don’t look at one guy. I take different parts of many players. I try to establish Kronwall’s hits. I like to see how we do it. If I play here, I know I will have to fight and be physical.”
What jumped out at the Flyers about Larsson was a Swedish defenseman with 158 penalty minutes. That’s misleading, too. Larsson had four or five fights – he’s not certain how many – and in Sweden, it’s 25 penalty minutes for every fight.
“You get a fight and it’s 25 minutes and a game misconduct and a shower,” he said. “You pounce on a guy and it’s 25 minutes. I’m a physical guy. I like to block shots. It’s my thing. I don’t score goals or get points. I like to not allow goals.”
The Flyers drafted Larsson in the fourth round this year. They have two years to sign him. Problem is, Larsson has yet to play top end hockey in the Swedish Elite League. He spent most of last season with Brynas' U18 before finishing with U20.
Flyers scout Ilkka Sinisalo offered to bring him over to North America this year for higher competition in junior, but Larsson elected to return to Brynas’ U20 club.
Which is still a step away from the level he needs to be.
Essentially, by the time Larsson advances to Brynas' major club, the Flyers will have just one year to look at him and decide whether he’s worth a contract. Simon Bertilsson, a 2009 Flyers draft pick, was in a similar situation and the Flyers never ended up signing him.
“I think it’s best for me to stay at home, play and finish school,” Larsson said.
Chris Pryor, the Flyers director of hockey operations, said the organization is backing Larsson’s decision not to play junior in North America.
“He’s in a good situation there, that’s a good program over there and he was comfortable where he was,” Pryor said.
“We’ll see where he is next year at this time and what his thought processes are. Maybe he will want to come over then.
“He’s a physical-type defenseman and [scout] Matti Kautto saw him a lot and felt for a big guy he moves pretty good. Those kind of guys are hard to find. He plays that physical, irritating style.”
Funny thing is, Larsson never expected to get drafted by the Flyers. He was fishing in Europe when he got a phone call from Brynas teammate Oscar Dansk, whose father was at the draft in Pittsburgh, telling him that he had been taken.
Why wasn’t Larsson at the draft? Because his agent, Christian Sjogren, told him he had a 50-50 shot and it wasn’t worth flying over for.
Larsson admitted having limited contact with the Flyers and actually thought if any club took him it might be Washington, which had spent more time with him at the World Championships.
Sinisalo and Kautto spent about 30 minutes with Larsson.
“Nah, no feeling [for the Flyers],” Larsson admitted. “Maybe Washington … I was a little surprised they drafted me.”
From the Flyers' standpoint, Pryor says Larsson’s stats were very “atypical” for a Swedish defenseman because of his penalty minutes.
“I get penalties because I am bigger,” Larsson said, adding it’s not because he is a dirty player. The penalty minutes are inflated, he said, because of the fighting majors.
“If I play here [in the NHL], I know I will have to fight and be physical,” Larsson said.
Larsson arrived in the U.S. on Sunday – his first time ever in North America and was up 20 hours with a few hours rest for before prospect camp began.
“I have jet lag. I’m pretty tired,” he said, adding he felt he had a bad day on the ice even though Pryor said the scouting and coaching staff loved what saw of him in drills.
“This training today was not good,” Larsson said. “I have more to prove. This is not my type of training. I like to hit. Back at home, my teammates don’t like that I hit them too.”
Yeah, he’s a Flyer, all right.E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.