When Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff and his $5.5-million salary-cap hit were moved to the Dallas Stars in July the return was Danish defenceman Philip Larsen.

At first blush it seemed like the old addition by subtraction story with Larsen a “Who’s he?” player.

It appeared that the Oilers had to take Larsen’s $1.025-million cap hit to ease the financial pain somewhat from the Stars’ end. But Larsen who was born in Denmark and moved to Sweden to play junior at age 15 has been a surprise.

He has very good speed offensive savvy and he doesn’t back off from attacking players; he’s in their face.

Larsen is only six feet and 190 pounds which might be worrisome on the cycles in the corners or scrums in front of the net but the one-time partner of Mark Fistric when they were both in Dallas is absolutely in the mix for a spot on the Oilers’ blue-line.

It’s early in training camp but Larsen and farmhands Taylor Fedun and Brandon Davidson are ahead of the others in the hunt for the No. 7 spot with Russian free agent Anton Belov (who just arrived) and veteran Corey Potter (sore back) scrambling to catch up.

If it’s purely a fiscal decision Fedun and Davidson while very impressive have two-way contracts. Fedun makes $77500 and Davidson $62500. Larsen would make $1.025 million in Edmonton or Oklahoma City; Belov $75000 in the American Hockey League. Potter who tweaked his back early in camp has a one-way contract at $775000.

In new head coach Dallas Eakins’ blue-print where he wants D-men to go back to retrieve the puck and get it up ice in a hurry Larsen fits in very nicely as does Fedun who is about the same size.

The question is whether he’s strong enough but they say that about every defenceman who isn’t six-foot-two and 210 pounds.

“He can really skate and his gaps (between the puck-carrier and the defender) are really good. He closes on people quickly” Eakins said Monday before playing Larsen for more than eight minutes in the third period and 23 minutes and 45 seconds overall in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Larsen assisted on Mitch Moroz’s goal then scored off a 10-footer late in the third period off-setting his not getting to slugger Anthony Peluso to prevent the Jets’ third goal from the slot.

“Real solid game” said Eakins who loves Larsen’s skating. “He’s confident in his game. When you skate like he does you can get right up there and recover.”