In 2011-12, Oliver Ekman-Larsson experienced his first full season in just the NHL as part of the Phoenix Coyotes. He had perfect attendance–one of five Coyotes to play all 82 games this past season–and was along for the ride as the Coyotes made their deepest playoff run in franchise history. Plus, he was never called back down to the AHL San Antonio Rampage, unlike last season.
The 21-year-old Swedish defenseman had a career-best season, putting up 13 goals and 19 assists in that perfect attendance season, plus four points in Phoenix’s 16-game playoff run. Two of those goals and six of those assists came on the power play, he had one shorthanded goal and two game-winning goals. Not only did he produce offensively, ranking sixth among Coyotes for goals scored, but he also racked up 140 hits and 92 blocked shots.
Phoenix selected Ekman-Larsson sixth overall in the 2009 draft and signed him to a three-year entry-level deal in May 2010. He spent the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons in his native Sweden, playing for Leksands IF of the HockeyAllsvenskan, which is kind of like the Swedish version of the AHL. Plus, he represented Sweden three times: once at the 2009 U-18 World Championship, once in the 2010 World Juniors and finally at the 2010 World Championship.
In the 2010 World Juniors, he was Sweden’s highest-scoring defenseman. In the 2010 World Championship, he was named the best player of the game when Sweden took on fellow Scandinavian country Norway. Even though he missed a few Allsvenskan games by going to the 2010 World Juniors, which began just after Christmas and went until early January, he was still the second most productive among junior players in the league when he put up 27 points in 47 games.
After putting up points and performances like that, the Coyotes picked him up for 2010-11. He did spend most of that season in Phoenix and scored one goal and 10 assists. It didn’t take long for him to put up his first assist–it happened in October 2010–but that sole goal of the season came in January 2011.
Ekman-Larsson is going into the final year of his entry-level contract. With the way he’s performed offensively and defensively in the past, provided Phoenix can stabilize its financial issues (and the NHL can stabilize the issues it’s having too) and he puts together another impressive season, he could very well become a big part of the Coyotes’ future. Considering that some of his fellow Coyotes blueliners are getting up there in age, his youth could be a factor in determining his role with Phoenix in the coming years.
In the meantime, he’s been assigned to the AHL Portland Pirates to wait out the lockout and continue to get better.
Ekman-Larsson was part of the rookie coalition for Team Lidstrom at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. Participating in the Elimination Shootout, he pulled this backhand tricky maneuver on Carey Price, who did stop him, but it still made an impression.
In a game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ekman-Larsson puts a big hit on Petteri Nokelainen that the announcers refer to as laying the lumber.
When the Winnipeg Jets came to visit the team that was itself once the Jets, Ekman-Larsson had a big night, scoring two goals in Phoenix’s win. This was his second of the night, a goal scored practically from center ice.
- Ekman-Larsson’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Kenneth Ekman, was also a defenseman and played for Sweden at the 1972 Winter Olympics.
- Ekman-Larsson won a bronze medal at both junior and senior level World Championships in 2010.
- His full name is Oliver Oscar Emanuel Ekman-Larsson, so every single one of his names begins with either an O, E or L.
The Rant Sports Top 100 NHL Players series will examine the top 100 players all across the league. Look for more from the top 100 soon.