Johan Larsson has been a Sabre for as long as Jason Pominville has not. The young Finnish center was traded for along with Matt Hackett and a 1st round pick for the Sabres former captain Pominville. To this point Larsson has shown more in the NHL than Hackett, and Nikita Zadorov who the Sabres took with that 1st rounder.
Larsson was taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 NHL draft, 56th overall by the Minnesota Wild. The Sabres did not have a 2nd round pick that year after trading it to San Jose for Craig Rivet. He played just one game for Minnesota and played in the minors during his time being Wild. At the time he was traded Larsson was though of as an exciting prospect for the Sabres system. These are some highlights from Larsson before he became an NHLer.
Since he's arrived in Buffalo, Larsson has been up and down between Rochester and Buffalo. A big reason for that is he had been inconsistent at the NHL level. He played on the 3rd and 4th lines in the early part of his career and was offered little opportunity to succeed. That all changed in the back half of this Sabre season. After several injuries the Sabres called up Larsson who had been playing great in Rochester in the prior months. Larsson was put in as the team's number one center following an injury to Zemgus Girgensons. The wingers Larsson played the most with were Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson, the most talented scorers on the team. With capable linemates, Larsson thrived. He played a very responsible two way game and put up points.
In 39 games, Larsson had 6 goals and 10 assists. His plus minus was an even 0. I'll be the first to say how flawed plus minus is, but a 0 on one of the worst teams in NHL history is impressive. He had good puck possession and Fenwick stats, which are the advanced stats I take the most stock in. His numbers rivaled players such as Dustin Brown and Andrew Ladd.
Larsson slots himself as the future 4th line center at this point, but a great one in that. Playing a role similar to what Gregory Campbell played in Boston, but with more offense. With Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, and Mikahil Grigorenko in the system, Larsson has zero pressure on him to be a top 3 center. If he develops into that, great. He'll just add to the depth that could look very good in the coming years.
For this upcoming season, the Sabres may need Larsson to contribute. Next years centers will be Eichel and Girgensons to start the season, unless Reinhart has developed enough. That would put Larsson as the teams 3rd line center to start. After watching him play last season, I believe he'll do great in that role. He'll have Grigo and Reinhart nipping at his heels for ice time and a roster spot at the center position. If one or both pass him, no need to fear because Larsson has spent time on the wing and did well. Not as well as center, but still good.
I believe Larsson will be a very good 3rd line center in the NHL. However, I don't believe he'll be played there just because of the center depth the Sabres have. If he becomes good enough, there are scenarios where he could fit there. If Girgensons moves to wing and the Sabres trade Grigorenko, Larsson will be the 3rd guy.