If one thing leads to another, it's Oliver Ekman-Larsson's uptrend toward taking on leadership roles. Fresh off his first season serving as Coyotes captain, he has been appointed that exact duty for Team Sweden for the 2019 IIHF World Championship tournament.
Selected to be the fourth captain in Coyotes history last September, Ekman-Larsson will lead a Sweden roster that seeks its third-straight gold medal at the annual international tournament, which begins this Friday in Slovakia's host cities of Bratislava and Kocise.
"It's always fun to be able to represent your country, and for me, to play for Team Sweden," he said on Friday. "I've always said that whenever I have the chance, I want to be a part of the World Championship tournament, it's a new challenge for me after the NHL season."
A challenge that the 27-year-old defenseman has successfully embraced as a dynamic figure for two consecutive title runs, most recently serving as an alternate captain of Sweden's 2018 championship squad.
"We're going to have a good team, so I'm just trying to be myself, play good hockey, and have a lot of fun with the guys," he noted. "Most of the guys here play at the level where they already know how to play good hockey and how to be good teammates, so my job is pretty easy. It's just a matter of getting everybody together and having a good time."
Though the team's roster has yet to be finalized, Ekman-Larsson expects to be surrounded by a very talented cast, and one that will provide an expanded taste of how his country's best prepare to compete at an elite level.
"To be around different players that you're usually playing against, seeing what they do to get ready for a practice, to get ready for a game, that's special, he said in regard to the group of names he's preparing to play with. "I think you can always learn something from other players."
Continuing to learn is a big aspect of Ekman-Larsson's day-to-day approach both on the ice and off of it, but now more so than ever, he's focused on passing down those lessons learned and life skills obtained that have led him to a very respectable nine-year NHL career, while recognizing their origins.
"I was fortunate enough to be around Shane Doan for six years and many other great leaders, I was always looking to teach myself and see what they're doing, how they handle themselves," he said. I've picked up on a lot of stuff, and especially so from Shane for a number of years, he did a good job of getting me ready and I have a lot to thank him for."
With leadership comes respect, and it's those who live life with that principle toward others who are eventually chosen to mold a group that seeks honest, open direction.
"My parents raised me in a way that I'm sticking to, and it's how I live my life, and it stays true to me whether it's in hockey or anything else - you should always treat the people around you the way you want them to treat you back," the Karlskrona, Sweden native stated firmly. "That's what I do, and it's been working out so far, I feel like it's a pretty good mantra to live by."
Those values that Ekman-Larsson instills on a daily basis do in fact ring true, earning him the recognition of being one of three finalists for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.
The Coyotes defenseman's nomination was announced on April 23rd, along with the other two finalists: Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
"This is probably the nicest award that you can get nominated for," he said. "A lot of people recognize you for your hockey play and what you do on the ice, but when I'm done playing, I want people to say that I'm a great guy overall, and I learned that from Shane."
Not only has Ekman-Larsson's road to captaincy and thorough development of leadership practices grown through the example of Doan, who won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy following the 2009-10 campaign, but it has also had a direct effect on his focus toward community activation.
"Every guy that Shane talked to, every person that he talked to, they'll say that about him, what a great guy he was, and for me to be around that was really special," he reiterated. "To be able to give back, to hang out with kids, helping families, I think it's huge, and I think our organization is going a good job in focusing on our awareness off the ice."
While his attention now turns toward leading Team Sweden's group at the IIHF World Championship tournament, Ekman-Larsson will utilize the same melody he does when working with others in the local community to influence a positive team-first structure in Slovakia.
"I'm lucky to be able to play a sport for a living, so I think it's the right thing to do to give back, help other people, and have their back when times are tough," he said. "I have people in my life who have my back, and I want to be able to do the same for every person I can, whether it's on or off the ice."