Montreal will always be a special place for defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. For it was there, inside the Bell Centre, the Coyotes picked him sixth overall at the 2009 NHL Draft.
“I will remember that day for the rest of my life,” Ekman-Larsson said on Tuesday, inside the Bell Centre after the first of two Coyotes practices this week in the City of Saints before Thursday’s game vs. the Canadiens. “It was a big day for me and my family. It was unreal. The crowd was huge and it was an awesome feeling to walk up on that stage.”
I remember covering that Draft for the team’s official web site. Ekman-Larsson attended with his parents, his grandparents and his brother. It was a nerve-racking experience for the young Swede whose English, by his own admission, “wasn’t that great.”
“I was a little bit nervous the day before,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I wasn’t used to the hype of the draft and it was weird to me.”
The first three picks of the 2009 Draft went pretty much as experts predicted with center John Tavares going first to the New York Islanders, defenseman Victor Hedman going second to Tampa Bay, and center Matt Duchene going third to Colorado. The Atlanta Thrashers used the No. 4 pick on winger Evander Kane and the Los Angeles Kings followed by taking center Brayden Schenn with the No. 5 pick.
The Coyotes then pounced on Ekman-Larsson.
“Oliver is a multi-talented defenseman with tremendous potential and we believe he’ll play a big role in the future of the Coyotes,” General Manager Don Maloney said on the day of the draft.
Boy, did he nail it!
Ekman-Larsson, who earned a trip to the All-Star Game and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player last season, will enter Thursday’s game with a career-high six-game point streak, which is tied for the second longest active point streak in the League. In those games he notched two goals and four assists, and, despite a slow start offensively, he ranks in the top-10 among NHL defensemen in points (13) and assists (10).
Regarding his draft, Ekman-Larsson said he recalls watching it unfold without a clue as to when he would be picked.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Ekman-Larsson said. “My agent told me he thought I was going in the first round but he didn’t know when. It was a big surprise for me when I heard my name announced.”
It was also time to collect on a promise. Both Oliver’s father and his agent told him they would shave their heads if he were selected in the first round. He was. They did.
“Everything turned out great,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I’m really happy where I am right now and hopefully I can be here for a long time.”
In researching this blog I stumbled across another blog I wrote on June 28, 2009, the day after the NHL Draft.
A noteworthy excerpt:
First-round draft pick Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a really nice young man and I am eager to watch him develop over the next few years. I spoke with Oliver’s father at length about his son, whom he trains, and he provided plenty of good insight. He said Oliver prides himself on crisply and accurately moving the puck to teammates. He also told me Oliver has a terrific slap shot and wrist shot, but that he doesn’t shoot the puck enough. Oliver agreed and told me he plans to work on that.
At last check, Ekman-Larsson has taken 816 shots in 358 NHL games, including a team-high 264 last season alone.