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Ekman-Larsson Thrilled to Play with Hjalmarsson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson will be Arizona's top defensive pairing in 2017-18

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE - If you look at Arizona's depth chart for next season you'll see Oliver Ekman-Larsson and newly acquired Niklas Hjalmarsson locked in as the top pair of defensemen.

"I'm super excited about that," Ekman-Larsson told during the recent European Player Media Tour. "He's super easy to play with. He talks a lot and he's a good skater and moves the puck. I would say he's underrated."

The Coyotes acquired Hjalmarsson in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin on June 23 in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"Bringing in Hjalmarsson, I think that's a really good pickup by us," Ekman-Larsson said. "He can help our young team to really get better … I know from playing with him (on the Swedish national team), we can learn a lot. He knows what it takes to win."

Hjalmarsson, 30, and Ekman-Larsson, 26, were teammates with Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016 and at the 2014 Winter Olympics, where they won silver medals. Both are left-shot defensemen, but Hjalmarsson said he is comfortable playing either side.

"Hopefully I can complement him (Ekman-Larsson) with just playing my style of hockey," Hjalmarsson said after the trade. "At the same time, maybe (I can) try to develop a little bit more of a puck-moving element to my game and be more involved offensively."

Ekman-Larsson is looking to rebound from a sub-par season, by his standards, in 2016-17. His struggles to overcome a broken thumb and the death of his mother are well-documented.

Looking forward, a healthy Ekman-Larsson wants to take his game to an even higher level than his All-Star season in 2015-16, and earn more respect around the League.

"I think people will talk about me more if I'm on a winning team and that's what I'm trying to do, to help the team win," Ekman-Larsson said. "That's what good players do. I'm really looking forward to trying to take the next step."


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