When the Phoenix Coyotes were on the clock at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, there was one guy on the board that was just too good to pass up. With the sixth pick overall, general manager Don Maloney selected a defenseman by the name of Oliver Ekman-Larsson from Karlskrona, Sweden to become a member of the Coyotes organization.
Arguably one of the best first round picks in franchise history, Ekman-Larsson wasted no time before making a name for himself in this league. The six foot, two inch rookie spent only fifteen games with the AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage before being called up to join the Coyotes in Glendale. In his brief tenure with the Rampage, OEL tallied up 10 points (3 goals and 7 assists) as he proved he was ready for the next level.
In his first 82 game season with the ‘Yotes, Oliver managed to score 13 goals and record 19 assists as he complimented the gameplay styles of fellow defensemen Keith Yandle and Derek Morris. His tight forechecking and solid hits can clear the puck out of the zone and help the Coyotes attack down the ice. As an offensive defenseman, OEL is able to control the game from the blue line. By dictating the game from the point, Ekman-Larsson can direct screens, feed the puck to the open man, or even rip a slap shot through an open lane to the net. This 23 year old can also join the rush and take it to the net himself if he has to:
With his fantastic play early on in his career, the Coyotes organization knew they had to lock this guy down for good. On March 15, 2013 Oliver Ekman-Larsson signed a six year contract extension with the team for a total of $33 million. The Coyotes now have a guy that they can build their team around. By becoming one of the highest paid players on the roster, OEL knew he had to deliver to the team. Last season he managed to contribute 15 goals and 29 assists in 80 games for the Coyotes. His 44 points ranked him 7th overall on the team.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s exceptional abilities are not just limited to North American ice. He has become a prominent member on Sweden’s national team while being paired up with Ottawa Senators superstar Erik Karlsson. In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, OEL was credited with three assists in six games as Team Sweden went on to win the silver medal. His popularity over in Europe has even inspired a crossover jersey. What do you think of his half Sweden, half Coyotes sweater?
Off the ice, OEL is an entrepreneur. In the summer of 2013, he launched “OEL of Sweden”, a clothing merchandise store that is branded by his initials. From shirts, to hats, to even underwear; you are able to proudly wear a product designed by your favorite Swedish defenseman. I may or may not be wearing some OEL underklader as we speak. By providing the world with branded merchandise, Oliver Ekman-Larsson acts as a role model as he aims to inspire a younger crowd to work hard and reach their full potential just like he did.
As a big name for the Arizona Coyotes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is looked upon for a high production of points. In the early stages of his career he has contributed to the Coyotes in consitent ways that put the team in a position to win. Through 258 NHL games he has accumulated a total of 111 points. As he continues to grow and learn the game, Oliver Ekman-Larsson will become one of the top defensemen in the NHL.
You can easily put him on your Norris Trophy watch-list this season.