Wings goaltending prospect Filip Larsson already dreaming of 'next level'
Detroit — Just like most anyone his age, Filip Larsson is on social media — a lot.
Because he is consistently on his phone, Larsson, 20, arguably the Red Wings’ best goaltending prospect, sees and hears all the speculation surrounding himself, mainly from Wings’ fans wanting Larsson to soon becoming the team's No. 1 goalie.
“Yeah, I get some stuff on social media,” he said recently at the Wings’ development camp. “Sometimes I get a message, or something. I know about it and it’s fun to see. For me, I want to play games at the next level.”
If the recent past is any indication, Larsson will someday get the chance.
Larsson signed a pro contract this spring, leaving the University of Denver and signing a three-year entry-level deal with the Wings.
A sixth-round draft pick in 2016, Larsson is penciled to begin the season in Grand Rapids, splitting time with veteran goaltender Calvin Pickard while learning the professional game.
Signing Pickard, general manager Steve Yzerman said, was important for the Wings, creating more veteran depth but also giving Larsson an opportunity to work with a dedicated veteran.
Larsson is squarely focused on Grand Rapids and next season, when at the development camp.
“I know it’s a good opportunity,” Larsson said of playing with the Griffins. “I’m not looking at NHL this upcoming season. I want to make the AHL team and get as many games as possible and develop.
“In future years, maybe have that opportunity (in the NHL).”
If Larsson adapts to the pro game as quickly as he did from junior to college hockey, the Wings’ organization will be thrilled.
Two years ago, Larsson starred in junior, going 18-10-0 for Tri-City in the USHL, with a tidy 1.65 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.
Last season after missing the first two months of the college season because of a groin injury, Larsson debuted Nov. 24 and was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s goaltender of the month in December — his first full month of college play.
In 22 games for Denver, Larsson had a 13-6-3 record with a 1.95 GAA and .932 save percentage, and four shutouts.
Larsson then carried Denver to the Frozen Four, as he posted back-to-back shutouts in the West Regional.
“I played good at every level the last three years so to get that next step is going to be fun,” Larsson said. “I’m ready to take that."
It was during the college tournament run that Wings fans truly got their first glimpse of Larsson, and quickly christened him the Goalie of the Future.
“People have told me that but I haven’t really thought about Detroit,” Larsson said. “I’m looking at the next step (AHL). It’s not the NHL.
“Right now it’s making the AHL team, playing games and developing.”
It's no secret the Wings' goaltending depth in the organization isn't particularly deep.
With Jimmy Howard (age 35, one-year contract) and Jonathan Bernier (30, two years remaining on his contract) on the NHL roster, the Red Wings would benefit from someone in the organization rising to the NHL soon.
Larsson is further ahead then with fellow prospects Keith Petruzzelli and Jesper Eliasson — also both recent draft picks, but not as progressed as Larsson is currently.
“We have several prospects acquired through the draft, (and) we’re hoping they evolve into NHLers at some point,” Yzerman said before this year’s Entry Draft.
Larsson is hopeful of being that young goaltender to eventually make the Wings’ roster.
At 6-foot-2 and 190pounds, scouts like his calm demeanor, his ability to control rebounds, and positioning, always being square to shooters.
Larsson’s first test of pro hockey, beginning in September’s training camp, and how he responds to it, will be interesting to watch.
“It’s gone pretty fast (the progression through the ranks), but I felt good every game,” Larsson said.