Oliver Ekman-Larsson sees your expectations. And the Phoenix Coyotes defenseman wouldn’t mind raising them just a little bit.
Coming into the season, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was seen as a breakout candidate for the Coyotes. A defenseman with elite skills, he was one of the main reasons that many folks feel that Keith Yandle is expendable. By all accounts, he’s a future superstar on the blue line.
What makes him one is his skill set. He’s a terrific puck mover, has a strong shot, is solid in his own end, and is extremely intelligent. He has everything you want in an offensive defenseman. In fact, Ekman-Larsson has been so good that he may even be a candidate to take home some hardware at the end of the year.
Ekman-Larsson’s 17 points lead the Coyotes. In this shortened season, he could easily eclipse his career high, which is 32. In a full season, he could be capable of 50 or so points, if he was playing with a more offensively talented team. He’s been on the ice for more even strength goals than any other player in the league, having been present for 26 Coyotes goals at five-on-five.
The fact that Ekman-Larsson is putting up points on a club predicated around defense, defense, and more defense speaks to how talented he is. He’s also logging over 25 minutes a game and is a plus-7 on the season. Very few defensemen in the league are averaging those types of minutes and maintaining a solid plus/minus like Ekman-Larsson has.
His play is starting to garner some attention around the league, particularly when he’s making slick moves in the offensive zones to set up goals, like the one below (the best part about the clip is that it is Tyson Nash free):
Whether he wins the Norris Trophy or not, Ekman-Larsson has solidified himself as a candidate. Which means that he has officially arrived as an elite defenseman in this league.