GLENDALE – Just before the 2014-15 NHL preseason began, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson traveled to New York to attend the League’s official Media Day to represent the Coyotes.
While there, Ekman-Larsson took his place alongside the NHL’s marquee names doing interviews, posing for photos and promoting the League.
On Saturday, the League announced that Ekman-Larsson would once again be joining the NHL’s elite players – this time at mid-season at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
|Photo by Dave Vest. |
"It's a big honor to go there and be around the best players in this league," Ekman-Larsson said. "I don't know if I'm right up there (with elite players), but it's a good step for me. I'm just going to try to have fun, talk to everybody and have a good time."
Ekman-Larsson, 23, has notched 11 goals and eight assists in 41 games this season. Those 11 goals rank tied for second among NHL defensemen. Moreover, the young Swede leads all League defensemen in power-play goals with eight and is first among all NHL players with six game-winning goals.
Like the fans inside Gila River Arena, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett applauded when the P.A. announcer trumpeted Ekman-Larsson’s All-Star invitation during a break in the action on Saturday night.
"He’s certainly the one guy who’s deserving on our team," Tippett said after the game. "It’s a great honor for a young player."
He added, "The last month or so he's been really good… His game has come back to where it was last year, being a good offensive player along with being a good defender."
The NHL’s All-Star weekend is Jan. 23-25 in Columbus.
Ekman-Larsson will be the fifth Coyotes defenseman to appear at the event since the team moved to Arizona in 1996. The others are: Oleg Tverdovsky, Teppo Numminen, Ed Jovanovski and Keith Yandle.
So, before turning 24 years old, Ekman-Larsson will have played more than 300 NHL games, won a silver medal with Team Sweden at the Olympics and played in an NHL All-Star Game. He’s certainly proving the Coyotes correct for picking him sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
"When you watch how this young man plays, you can see he's not only a star now but he has a chance to be one of the best players in the League for a long, long time," Maloney said before this season started. "It’s really a treat to watch him play. He's one of the best defenders in the League, and he's still maturing as a player. People who don't get to watch him on a regular basis are missing something. He's that good."