GLENDALE - Oliver Ekman-Larsson is headed back to the NHL All-Star Game for a second time, the League announced on Wednesday.
Ekman-Larsson, who also represented the Coyotes at the 2015 All-Star Game, was named one of three defensemen for the Pacific Division team for this year's game in Tampa Bay during the final weekend of January. San Jose's Brent Burns and LA's Drew Doughty are the others.
"I love everything about the Coyotes, so I'm happy to be the guy who goes to the All-Star Game," Ekman-Larsson said Wednesday. "It means a lot. I still think I can play better hockey, but at the same time, it means that I'm doing something good and people like what they see."
Ekman-Larsson is excited to play in the game under the three-on-three format that was put into place after his first appearance three years ago. He has scored two three-on-three goals under the league's current overtime format.
"I think it's going to be a little bit tougher," Ekman-Larsson said. "I kind of felt like it was super intense (last year) and it seemed like everybody was skating hard. I kind of like playing three-on-three so I think it'll be a good time. There will be a lot of space on the ice."
Fans voted Edmonton's Connor McDavid as the team captain for the Pacific Division. Other players on the squad include Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, LA's Anze Kopitar and Marc-Andre Fleury of Vegas.
"I looked at the team and it looks good," Ekman-Larsson said. "It's going to be a lot of fun to get a chance to play with them instead of going up against them."
The NHL All-Star game is set for Sunday, Jan. 28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. The night before the game, the All-Stars will compete in a series of skills competitions. Ekman-Larsson is looking forward to competing in that again, too.
"I don't think I have the hardest shot in the league," Ekman-Larsson joked, in reference to the hardest shot contest. "But maybe stickhandling or hitting targets. I think I did pretty good (stickhandling in 2015) so hopefully I get the chance to do that again."
Ekman-Larsson is eager to return to the event as a 26-year-old. Being there for the first time at age 23 was challenging, he said.
"I was super nervous," Ekman-Larsson said. "Being around all the superstars, stuff like that. This time, I'm probably not going to be that nervous, but it's still going to be a lot of fun. Just to get the chance to know some of the other players and be around them for a couple days, it's going to be a lot of fun."