Canucks trade 5th-round pick to Edmonton for KHL Defenceman Philip Larsen

The Vancouver Canucks made a rather intriguing trade today, reaching all the way across the ocean to acquire defenceman Philip Larsen. Heading the other way is a conditional fourth or fifth-round draft pick, dependent on the results of this risk/reward-driven experiment.

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Larsen was originally drafted by the Dallas Stars with the 149th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, Larsen was a young defenceman who was yet to pick up a point at a level higher than Sweden’s second tier, the Allsvenskan. But bit by bit, he clawed away and got a cup off coffee in after the end of the end of his Draft+2 season in 2009/10.

Eventually, the found his way to more serious NHL time, playing 107 games between 2011/12 and 2013/14. The final 30 of those games were played with the Oilers, who acquired him as a piece in the trade of longtime core forward Shawn Horcoff.

The Oilers moved on after the first season, feeling that the 24-year-old Larson wasn’t creative enough to outweigh his smaller stature and occasional defensive gaffe. The numbers matched up, too; even with present Canucks coach Willie Desjardins’ trying to find him a spot in the Stars organization, Larsen’s underlying numbers never hinted at more than a serviceable fifth or sixth defender. As such, he headed to the KHL, spending a year with Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk before signing with Finnish club Jokerit.

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While his first KHL season was very solid, this year has been seen Larsen become one of the best defencemen in the world’s second best league. Larsen was tied for second among KHL defencemen this year with 11 goals and had the fifth-most points with 36 in 52 appearances. This is impressive enough as it is, but with Jokerit’s roster being much weaker than last, he found a way to turn himself into a focal point of the team.

Larsen averaged an impressive 9.42 shots on goal per 60 minutes (all situations) in 2015/16, well ahead of every other defenceman in the league. It’s safe to say, however, that Jokerit’s system leans towards shots coming in from the point; teammate Ville Lajunen is in second for the same statistic and Topi Jakola isn’t too far away in 9th (all three are in the top 20 in scoring).

While there’s certainly the chance that Larsen is one of those players that is better suited to the big ice (Cam Barker had 40 points in 55 games this year…), it’s likely that the Canucks will get a better rendition of him than the Oilers had a couple of years back. He’s a little older, a little wiser, and now has a love for shooting the puck. He’s also quite skilled at drawing penalties, and while you’ll never confuse him for a bruiser, he’s not completely scared of hitting or blocking shots. Most importantly, he was eager to come back to the league; under one condition.

This explains why the Oilers were so keen on selling him before giving him a chance, despite NHLe projections estimating that he would be their most effective defensive point producer (1.61 pts/60 all situations) since, well, himself two years ago. According to Bob McKenzie, Larsen is expected to officially sign with the Canucks on July 1st and play with the team next year. Odds are, he’ll be taking a steep paycut to get this second chance; Jokerit is far from a cheap team and they probably would have preferred to keep their star defenceman.

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Whether or not he’ll turn out to be as good as he’s been across the pond remains to be seen. But at the end of the day, it’s a 5th round pick. A fourth, if it turns out that he’s for real. Given the stride’s he’s taken, why not take the chance?

  • TrueBlue

    One concern I had when I heard about this was “why would the defense-starved Oilers trade this guy if he has a chance of making an impact?” Hearing that he was reluctant to sign with their team is good to know. Maybe afraid of becoming the next Justin Schultz.

    His numbers look good and he’s a decent age to make an impact. You never know how these will go (Steve Moses was a prolific scorer last year and spent the year in offensively-starved Nashville), but this sounds like an interesting gamble.

    So that’ll be Tryamkin, Rodin, and Larsen joining us from the KHL next year so far? Change is coming, Comrade.

      • TrueBlue

        Whoops.. yes, true. My mind connected them while I was thinking about how strange it is that Jokerit is a regular in the KHL now, then I just made a sweeping generalization.

        I guess we’ll be getting a close-up look at a small sample-size NHLe comparison between the two leagues. We should broaden the scope to include a 3rd league.. I hear there’s a 18-yr-old tearing up the Swiss NLA, that could work. If he’s not available, I know a couple of Finns who could take part.

    • mgg

      Steve Moses was even the leading goal scorer in the KHL (same team as Larsen – Jokerit) but in fact he never managed to transition to the smaller ice and didn’t play a single regular season game for Nashville. He struggled in camp so they sent him to the AHL with the hope to call him back later once he found his game but it never clicked on the smaller ice for him and he has returned to the KHL (SKA St-Petersburg) since.

  • pheenster

    All these risk-reducing moves are nice and all, but I wouldn’t mind at all if they try to get some picks in some of their deals. Doubt any of the players on Bob’s list go for anything other than picks.

    As for Larsen, I hope he can bring his experience and atleast turn out to be a decent 5/6 woth powerply potential. However, I expect him to get the Yannick Weber treatment. Worst case, he replaces Pedan’s minutes on the Utica blueline next year until he bolts back to the K.

  • wojohowitz

    Benning appears to be making tough decisions about next year`s roster, like maybe as many as ten players on the team now won`t be here next year and if that`s the case then a half dozen could be gone over the next three or four days. Granlund, Larsen and Rodin is just for starters with more to come. There could also be a major deal in the works.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Just looking at his stats in comparison. He’s tied for the 2nd most goals for a D man in the KHL (11), 5th for points, and 1st for SOG. All pretty good signs if he can keep that going!

    I wondered why Edmonton would sell someone like that so cheaply, but if he didn’t want to sign there that makes sense.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I love these kinda of ‘starving-to-death-back-door-given-up-on-them’ type deals… especially knowing that Benning appears to have a keen eye for talent. Obviously not everyone will be amazing but you have to hope that even one of the many players that Benning has locked onto will be that elusive golden ticket.

  • pheenster

    I have concerns about his lack of size.

    We iced the smallest Canucks team in recent memory this season. The results speak for themselves.

    Size matters.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    “Size matters”? Good grief, not another kick this tired, disproven, old can again…

    How about that we’re currently engaged in the “homeless person house construction” model to team building; where a once normal (great, even) NHL club slowly erodes into a sad, shambling version of its previous self, picking through its former neighbour’s garbage to find discarded scraps to construct its alleyway shanty out of, all the while thinking that it’s a mansion. And that’s not even to mention the “magic beans” trades like the Sutter-for-Bonino one was.

    I imagine that has more to do with it than simply lack of size, as the aforementioned Sutter for Bonino is a fine example of. I only wonder how much longer this dismemberment will be allowed to continue unabated…and what the team looks like when it finally stops.

    This is a train wreck.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Disproven? Hardly.

      Here’s the simple facts. The three smallest teams in the League are Vancouver, Calgary and Carolina.

      Funny, but they’re all missing out of a playoff berth.

      The biggest team?

      Your two time cup-winning, and current Pacific Division leader, Los Angeles Kings.

      It’s proven. Size matters.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        And your explanation of your three time cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks?

        The Kings are good. Size is incidental.

        You can say a forest is a group of trees and be right. You can say a forest is comprised of several individual trees and be correct as well.

        But as soon as you say a forest can only be made of BIG trees to be a REAL forest, well, everyone just pats you on the head and goes on with their business.

      • TrueBlue

        6’1″ 185lbs. Somewhere close to size of Tanev. He likes to shoot the puck on net not in shins worth a try. Hope he ends up costing us the 4th, means he done good.

        Stay positive my friend we not winning cup next year either we just trying to get a little more competitive

      • pheenster

        Simple facts.

        No Canadian teams are in a playoff spot.

        The pressure of playing in Canada is too much for players. All teams in playoff spots? American.

        It’s proven. Which country in which you play your home games matters.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey


        The initial trade of Kesler for Bonino AND a first round pick with the Sbisa contract made me think that Benning was a genius and I was happy.

        The subsequent trade where Benning couldn’t tell the good player (Bonino, obviously) from the bad contract he had to take on as part of the Kesler trade (Sbisa, very apparently) and resigned the latter at an insane raise and traded the former away for the aforementioned Brandon “Beans” Sutter AND re-signed him without having even hit the ice in a Canucks jersey and giving him a healthy raise, too, made me realize it is much more likely that Benning is out of his depth and just got lucky with the first trade and then I was sad.

        Oh, well…there’s always next season.

  • pheenster

    On D we have Tryamkin (sp?) and Pedan.

    I don’t mind if you pair them with a Subban or Larsen, let them do the hitting and the other D guy be the offensive presence.

  • Brent

    Love the fact that this guy was asked by Edmonton to return and he said not with that organization.(paraphrasing) as per Oilers nation on this trade. Found that comical that even in the KHL Oilers are laughing stock.

  • pheenster

    This move wouldn’t have even warranted a posting four or five years ago. The knee-jerk explosion by the Twitter mob on this has been amusing, albeit not shocking.

    Almost all of Bennings’ trades have involved giving up picks. The Canucks’ are not getting better through the draft because they’ve been denied permission to do that. Get used to it already!

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Yes, true. Something else fun is that if you compare their seasons with Vancouver and understand they both largely were filling the 2C role with occasional 3C duties and assume Sutter was injured and multiply his point total out to compensate for injury, they both look pretty similar in the scoring department, though Sutter would finish with a third less PIMs. On paper, of course.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    what do you think- who from these Nucks players: Vey, Bartkowski, Kenins, Cracknell, Higgins, Prust and Weber- are more possible for trade out from Vancouver?

    imho, if Y.Weber & Kenins dont receives new contracts from Nucks/NHL, they’ll return to Suiss- NLA.
    what’s yours opinion?

  • Spiel

    Love that Jester logo. Perhaps Benning and Linden should wear T-Shirts with it on the front. Each GM has a signature move. Mike Gillis tried to draft 20 year old kids and it didn’t work. Benning is trading for other team’s failures and so far one (Baertschi) has been serviceable.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    With Jensen gone the Canuck Danish contingent was down to one so Hansen needs company. Also Danish hockey has been rapidly improving and they’ve made the jump to the A group in international competition.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I was the first of only 11 Danes to play in the NHL and it was with Vancouver. Sorry the Canucks didn’t pick my countryman Ehlers but Virtanen sounds like a nice Finnish boy.