Ekman-Larsson Poised for Big Year

Michael Amato

2013-06-17

OliverEkman-Larsson

 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Poised For Big Year

Another off-season is upon us, which means another summer of debating whether or not the Coyotes will still be in Phoenix next season. This time around things aren't looking very optimistic in Glendale. The normally positive Bill Daly and Gary Bettman gave indications last week that the Coyotes stay in Phoenix could be coming to a close. Daly said it's possible the team won't play there for the 2013-14 season, and Bettman added that there were plenty of relocation markets who have expressed an interest in acquiring the team. Not a good sign coming from Bettman, a guy that almost always refuses to admit anything is wrong. It could be just pouring down rain and Bettman would still be trying to tell you he sees sunshine. 

 

These distractions are nothing new for the Coyotes organization and their players. The squad has been living in a state of franchise limbo for years and have done an admirable job of continuing to perform at a high-level. Phoenix has cracked the post-season three out of the last four campaigns and even made the Conference Finals last year.

In the lockout shortened year of 2013, however, the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09. Despite their recent struggles, Phoenix has one of the brightest young defenseman in the game today in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The organization locked up the Swedish blue liner to a six-year deal worth $5.5M a season in March, ensuring he will be the future cornerstone of the team.

Ekman-Larsson was a victim of the lockout as it related to his numbers. He would have had a career year in just about every offensive category poolies are typically concerned with, if not for the shortened year. In 2013, Ekman-Larsson posted 24 points in just 48 games, while netting only 32 in a full 82 games in 2011-12. Not only that, but he recorded 101 shots and 26 PIM in 2013, compared to 147 and 32 respectively last year. In a full season Ekman-Larsson's numbers would have been around 41 points, 172 shots, and 44 PIM.

In addition to an offensive upswing, Ekman-Larsson also changed has game drastically from a point's perspective. In 2011-12 he scored 13 times and recorded 32 points, meaning his goals accounted for nearly 41% of his production. This year he only potted three goals which made up just 12% of his offense. He did have 21 assists though, which is two more than he had all of last year in 82 games.

If your league weighs goals and assists equally, this could be some good fortune for Ekman-Larsson owners. He led the team in assists and finished second on the squad in secondary helpers. There are obviously two assists available for every goal scored, so someone like Ekman-Larsson who all of a sudden seems to be a playmaker, has a greater chance of avoiding lengthy pointless droughts as a pure scorer would.

As good as Ekman-Larsson's production was, he also did some things that show he is developing and adjusting quickly to the NHL game. He averaged less than a giveaway per contest in 2013 and was tied for 13th in the NHL when it came to drawn penalties. These stats may not do much for a poolie when it comes to statistical categories, but it does show Ekman-Larsson is making good decisions on the ice and maturing