By now you should all know about Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
When the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Final in 2012, Ekman-Larsson wowed fans who hadn’t had much of a chance to see him play with his ability to carry the puck and generate offense from the blue line. His ability to play strong in all three zones had many believing they were watching a future Norris Trophy winner.
Two years since then, the Coyotes have fallen out of the playoff picture but Ekman-Larsson’s play hasn’t fallen off. If anything, the 23-year-old is leading by example.
Over the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson has averaged over 25 minutes of ice time per game. Last season he played nearly 26 minutes per game and the ice time paid off as he had career-highs in goals (15) and points (44). His point total was second to Keith Yandle on the team defense and 14th best amongst defensemen in the NHL. Of the players ahead of him on the NHL list, only Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber saw more ice time.
While Yandle carried a bit more of the offensive load, Ekman-Larsson is taking care of business strongly at both ends of the ice. He’s also a major threat on the power play as 22 of his 44 points last season came with the man-advantage including eight goals.
When you check out Ekman-Larsson’s possession stats (courtesy Extra Skater), his game is strong.
In his first three seasons he had positive numbers that ranked him out amongst the best on the team. While his possession numbers fell off last season, the punch he and Keith Yandle provided offensively helped keep the Coyotes in the hunt for the playoffs all year.
As he enters his fifth season, Ekman-Larsson has all the hype and the skills to back it up. Now it’s his time to break through and enter the pantheon of other elite, young defensemen.