GLENDALE – Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is 23 years old and wears sweater No. 23, has scored 23 goals this season to match a franchise mark that had survived for 23 years.
Pretty cool, huh?
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Photo by Getty Images. |
On Saturday, Ekman-Larsson will have one last chance to take sole possession of the team’s most-goals-scored-by-a-defenseman-in-a-season record when the Coyotes host the Anaheim Ducks in the season finale.
Phil Housley, who shares that franchise mark with Ekman-Larsson, is hoping the young Swede can light the lamp one more time on Saturday.
"I’m extremely proud that I held that record for so long, but for him to break that in this day and age of the game would be something he could really hang his hat on," Housley said Friday. "That’s a terrific mark to reach. If he can do it, I would be really happy for him."
Housley is the fourth-highest scoring defenseman in NHL history and the League’s highest scoring American defenseman. He notched 1,232 points (338 goals, 894 assists) in 1,495 NHL regular-season games during a career that spanned 21 seasons (1982-2003) with eight teams, including Winnipeg, which relocated to Arizona in 1996.
Playing for Winnipeg in 1990-91, Housley scored 23 goals. He matched that output in 1991-92.
"Records are made to be broken," Housley said. "It’s a unique situation. In today’s day and age, for a defenseman to score 20 goals is quite remarkable to say the least. It rarely happens so for him to conquer the 20-goal mark – my hat goes off to him."
Housley set his personal record for goals in one NHL season in 1983-84 when he notched 31 while playing for Buffalo.
|Phil Housley. Photo by Getty Images. |
"The game has changed a lot since then," Housley said. "The structure is so much better now. When teams forecheck their first two forwards come back really hard and pressure the puck from behind. There’s not a lot of odd-man rushes and that’s why defensemen that are mobile are so valuable because they can add to the rush and create an odd-man situation. For the most part, teams are very well structured and there’s not a lot of room and the room you do get you really have to take advantage of. That's why, I think, a defenseman who can score 20 goals is special."
He added: "In today’s game the forwards do such a great job of getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots from the point so the puck never gets delivered to the net. That’s why goal scoring by a defenseman is a unique art. It’s about poise. It’s about changing your angle. It’s about knowing when to hit it hard or just try to get it through to the net. Those are hard things to do, especially against teams that sacrifice and do a good job of blocking shots."
As an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators the past two seasons, Housley has seen Ekman-Larsson play up close.
"He’s a terrific player," Housley said. "With his size and range and skating ability - those are assets you really want in a defenseman in this League. Plus the way he processes the game in his brain, he’s way ahead of the curve in that element as well. Without question, he’s an up-and-coming, all-around defenseman in the League.”