Marty Brodeur knows a lot about winning, particularly winning defensively. He’s played behind some of the best defensemen of this generation. So, when the man who holds the record for most career wins talks about defense, people listen.
Brodeur will enter his eighteenth NHL season in the unique position of having something to prove. The Devils missed the playoffs last year and Brodeur had an injury-plagued, sub-.500 record, the first losing record of his career. There were whispers in 2010-11 that #30 might be finished.
Fast forward to today, and the Devils goaltender is optimistic about the new campaign, set to begin Saturday vs. the hated Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils have a new coach and several young players to go along with veterans like him.
One such youngster, first round draft pick Adam Larsson, will be on the ice when the Devils take on Philadelphia. The eighteen year old will be making his NHL debut in front of Brodeur, who first took the ice for the Devils several moths before Larsson was born. However, that doesn’t mean Brodeur doesn’t have confidence in the young blueliner, who has had a solid preseason.
“The way he skates, the way he moves the puck, he’ll definitely be an impact player for us” Brodeur said. “It’s going to be a learning curve for him that we have to live with, but it’s going to be a real positive thing.”
Larsson has spent most of the preseason manning the blue line with veterans Andy Greene and Henrik Tallinder, and showed flashes of brilliance, including registering 2 assists on September 23 against the Rangers. He’s also been strong at the point on the power play, something that reminds Brodeur of a certain defenseman of the past.
“Scott Niedermayer had a learning curve as well, but the talent was always there. I think Larsson is in the same boat” Brodeur said.
The comparisons to Niedermayer, also a Devils first round pick (3rd overall in 1991), have been numerous and possibly unavoidable, but not unwarranted. Niedermayer was known as an explosive skater during his 13 seasons with the Devils, as well as a defenseman who could lead an offensive rush. While Larsson isn’t as fast as Niedermayer, he is bigger, and seems to possess incredible poise for such a young player.
The Devils know that Larsson probably won’t turn into an overnight star, but the are expecting him to develop into one. There are few places in the NHL with the defensive tradition that the Devils have, and Adam Larsson could be the next in a long line of stars on the New Jersey blue line, anchoring the defense for the next fifteen years.