It would seem like a player consistently ranked among the top three prospects for 2011 and considered by some to be the top talent in the coming NHL draft would not be overly concerned with damage control heading into the World Junior Championships.
But for Swedish D Adam Larsson, that could be precisely the case during the U-20 tournament in Buffalo.
Early this summer, some of the scouts I spoke to pegged Larsson as their No. 1 overall; with almost all the others he was a solid No. 2, with Sean Couturier in the top slot. (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins's breakout at the Ivan Hlinka was still a couple of weeks off.)
With an impressive portfolio of past work, scouts have been cutting the high-ceiling D-man some slack, but since hitting that high mark, his performance has been slipping.
Larsson didn't overly impress during a series of exhibition games at Lake Placid in August. He looked sluggish and even a little bored against others in his age group -- he had, after all, played at age 17 in the Swedish elite league against full-grown pros. Still, that was mid-summer, so he got a pass on that.
Back in Sweden, Larsson's numbers in the SEL have taken a tumble this season. But scouts attributed the dip to limited power-play time, giving him another pass.
But at some point he needs to stop the skid if he wants to stay atop the draft pool, and it's doubtful he'll get yet another pass at the WJC. Judging by his early showing, though, it looks like he might need one.
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