Photo: Arizona Coyotes
After a career high in scoring during the 2013-2014 season, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson came into the ’14-’15 season hungrier than ever, to continue his potentially prosperous career with the Coyotes. Bulking up in the offseason and being more ready than ever for his role in Arizona’s organization were just a few of the things that he did to change his game for the better.
We’re halfway through the current season, and he’s at 11 goals. With a career high of 15, he seems to be going at a good pace. The 11 goals he has so far, puts him tied for second among defenseman. His production hasn’t stopped there, and 6 of his 11 goals have been game-winners, on top of an impressive 8 being on the power-play. He’s surpassed superstar Patrick Kane in game winners, and all defenseman on the PPG. The theatrics have not lacked from his game, especially in overtime, earning him the nickname Over-Time Larsson from his teammates.
A struggle with his plus/minus at the get-go seemed to be consuming him, but in an effort to fix his defensive play, he earned himself a bid to the 2015 All-Star Game. During the months of October and November, Ekman-Larsson carried a minus 15 rating, but since December, he’s at a plus 4.
After the Arizona Coyotes practice on Monday morning, I chatted with “OEL” to discuss his season so far and his nomination to the All-Star Game in Columbus.
Q&A with Coyotes Oliver Ekman-Larsson:
The Pink Puck: You had an uncertain start to your season, but you’ve really seemed to find your place, leading to some exciting and dramatic moments for you thus far. How does it feel knowing that you’ve been a vital part in your team accomplishing wins?
Oliver Ekman-Larsson: I think I had a slow start this year. I put on some weight this summer and I think it took a couple weeks to get used to that and that’s probably why I got off to a slow start. But I’m feeling better late here and I just want to be a big part of this team and this organization.
The Pink Puck: You’re currently leading the league in game winning goals, and power play goals scored by defenseman — is there a secret to those impressive stats?
OEL: *Laughs* No, it’s not. No secret there, I just have been lucky lately and I mean it’s always fun to score big goals and that’s something I want to keep doing.
The Pink Puck: So far you have 11 goals, but you’re on a good path to breaking your career high, is that something you think about?
OEL: No, not really. I mean, sometimes you score a lot of goals and then you have 25 games that you don’t score any goals. You never know, but I’m just going to try to improve my game and just keep working hard in games and practices.
The Pink Puck: What has “clicked” for you this season to have already achieved the 11?
OEL: I’ve just been lucky. My teammates have been doing a good job of getting me the puck and I’ve been doing a good job in front of the goalie. It makes it so much easier to score goals.
The Pink Puck: With such a wide variety of talent at the NHL All-Star game, is there anyone specific you’re looking forward to playing with instead of against?
OEL: No, I mean, all of them. It’s fun to go there and be around the top players in this league. Obviously, [Sidney] Crosby would be fun to play with. It’s hard to play against him but it would be nice to have him on the same team.
The Pink Puck: You have an impressive resume thus far with an Olympic medal (Sweden’s silver medal in Sochi) and now a bid to All-Star, how do you see your game improving from here and what can fans expect as the rest of the season skates forward?
OEL: You know, hopefully I can keep improving my game and I can just try to get better every practice and game. Obviously I’m happy where I’m at right now but I just want to keep working hard and take my game to the next level.
With the momentum he has been playing with this season, it’s no surprise that Ekman-Larsson was chosen to be an All-Star. It’s his first time participating, but if he continues to play like he has, it certainly won’t be his last.
Video from 1/10/15 loss to Senators