Never being one to shy away from controversy, or calling it as I see it, here’s my take on the top 3 (in my opinion) defensemen in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Now, I don’t get to see Larsson or Musil play live, and I’m not a big believer in TV showing everything there is to know about a player, so I am relying on scouting reports on the two that I trust very much.
Adam Larsson – Many believe Larsson will be the best hockey player ever from Sweden. When you consider some of the names to come over from Sweden, does anything else really need to be said?
The advantage Larsson has over Murphy and Musil is that he has two years under his belt playing against top competition in the SEL. Not only did he play, he succeeded. At 6’3” 220 pounds he has size; he is mobile and uses his big frame extremely well to defend. He plays calm in his own zone allowing him to help move his team out of the defensive zone with composure. His stick is active and he is positionally strong under pressure.
Offensively, Larsson has an extremely hard and accurate shot. He is an excellent puck handler and playmaker and makes perfect tape to tape passes. He gets compared to fellow countryman Viktor Hedman. While he doesn’t have Hedman’s size, and is not as physical, offensively he is ahead of where Hedman was and has higher offensive potential.
Ask someone to name a fault in his game and you will get a pause while they think of one. If they had to pick something, it would be his skating speed; both take off speed and overall speed. The other is having not played in North America like Musil or Murphy.
David Musil – Many believe that if anyone is to unsead Larsson as the top defenseman in the 2011 NHL entry draft, it will be David Musil. Like Larsson, Musil brings good size at 6’3” and 200 pounds. He also has the bloodlines with father Frank Musil and Uncle Bobby Holik both having played in the NHL.
He has a very good work ethic and wants to learn to become the best player he can be and is willing to work at it to become one. He handles the puck with poise. He has excellent vision and makes crisp, clean, accurate passes. He already plays like a seasoned veteran when used in a shut down roll. He has an active stick and is physical and also not afraid to drop the gloves.
Offensively, he had good numbers last season. Some believe for him to be successful offensively in the NHL he will have to learn to take more chances and when to take them. He doesn’t have the offensive potential of Larsson or Murphy, but he isn’t lacking in that department.
Ryan Murphy – I’ve followed Murphy a lot over the past couple of years, but I’ll try and be objective here. Of the three, Murphy is the most gifted offensively. His skating, speed, puck handling and playmaking abilities also have to rank on top. There are those that quietly compare his end to end rushes to Bobby Orr. I’ve been on record many times as saying I would never compare anyone to the greatest player to play the game, but I will not hesitate one bit in comparing all of the above to Paul Coffey. He has a deceivingly accurate and lethal snap shot but won’t break any records with his slap shot.
If there is a knock on Murphy it is his 5’11” 175 pound size. He worked hard to add some bulk this offseason and added 15 pounds. The other knock is in his defensive game. But he anticipates the play so well that he is able to pick off passes almost at will. The Kitchener Rangers also started using him in a penalty kill role last season. Murphy also has the best hip check I’ve seen in hockey in 20 years.
So, in a nutshell, Larsson and Musil bring an excellent over all game. But Murphy gets the nod hands down offensively. Ranking them right now, I would go with Larsson, Musil and Murphy. But I’ve said for months now that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if by draft time Murphy is challenging for that top defenseman spot, especially if he can add some more bulk.
I also have to add a note here. In my survey of OHL general managers which you can find earlier in this blog, Ryan Murphy was picked as the 3rd defenseman to go in the NHL draft from the OHL behind Scott Harrington and Dougie Hamilton.