FORT LAUDERDALE – Oliver Ekman-Larsson has fit perfectly in South Florida.

Playing in all but two games during his first season with the Panthers -- the second most games played among the team’s defensemen -- the 32-year-old veteran recorded 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists), 105 hits, 70 blocked shots and boasted a +10 plus/minus rating.

Benefitting from a change of scenery, his 32 points were his most since 2018-19.

Continuing his strong play into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the man they just call “OEL” has already registered two points (one goal, one assist) in five games through the first round.

Following Thursday’s practice at the Baptist Health IcePlex, I had the chance to catch up with the Swedish blueliner to talk about the playoffs, celebrity dinners and much more.

Ekman-Larsson brings Florida within one.

DARRAGH: How was your first experience with the Battle of Florida and getting that first-round win?

EKMAN-LARSSON: It feels good. It’s a rivalry that’s been building up over the course of the last few years and it’s nice to get past a really good team. That’s what is so much fun about playoffs, there’s good teams that you need to play your best against every single night if you’re going to win and move on. I think it’s special to do it against Tampa in the first round and build that momentum for the second round.

DARRAGH: You always hear that everything gets amped up in the playoffs. How do you control that energy to still be able to stick to your game as a team?

EKMAN-LARSSON: It’s a fine line. You want to be skating, hitting, and being in the right spots at the right time, but there’s also a lot going on – loud fans, sold out building, and guys playing their hearts out. You want to find that fine line and not get too low or too high, keeping it even keel is the key.

DARRAGH: As far as playing for Florida, what would you say went as expected and something that was different?

EKMAN-LARSSON: I think I had a pretty good picture of what I was getting into. You hear a lot of different things about the team, so I had a good sense of what I was getting into. The guys have been great. I heard that before I signed, it’s something special in here. I don’t know if there’s anything I didn’t expect. It’s been a great overall experience.

DARRAGH: What's been the best thing for you living in Florida and what’s surprised you the most?

EKMAN-LARSSON: I thought it was going to rain a little bit less, but it’s not a bad thing really. The weather has been great. You wake up and it’s beautiful every single day, so that’s a plus. It’s been pretty easy. I love it.

DARRAGH: What can you say about the Panthers’ depth on defense?

EKMAN-LARSSON: I think overall the team is deep. Our D-core is deep, so it doesn’t really matter who you play with. I’ve played with (Dmitry) Kulikov, (Josh) Mahura, and pretty much everybody. We have so many guys that can play. It doesn’t really matter what the lineup is. They’re all great guys, they play hard, and have all boughten into their role.

DARRAGH: Playing out west your whole career until this season, was there someone on the team that's skill level surprised you the most once you saw them on a more daily basis?

EKMAN-LARSSON: There’s a lot of guys. I played against (Aleksander) Barkov. I played against Chucky (Matthew Tkachuk) a lot when he was in Calgary and it’s a better feeling to be on the same team, for sure. Benny (Sam Bennett) and (Sam) Reinhart. A guy like (Gustav) Forsling, too, when you see how hard he works every single day and how good he is with the stick, there’s a lot of guys that once you get to see them every single day you understand why they’re good players in this league.

Ekman-Larsson's goal in overtime tops the Islanders.

DARRAGH: Favorite way to spend your time when you're not playing hockey during the season?

EKMAN-LARSSON: We don’t get much time off (laughing). I like relaxing. I’m a sports nerd, so watching different sports and hockey. It’s a good time of year for that now.

DARRAGH: Do you have a best concert or dream concert?

EKMAN-LARSSON: Bruce Springsteen. I went to his concerts a couple times. I don’t have a dream concert because I don’t listen to music very much, but Bruce was unbelievable.

DARRAGH: You’re close with teammate and fellow Swede Kevin Stenlund. What's something about him that fans wouldn't know?

EKMAN-LARSSON: He cares about how he dresses, loves watches, and stuff like that. He’s got to look good, and his hair has to be perfect. He spends a lot of time in front of the mirror before he leaves the rink (laughing).

DARRAGH: In your opinion, what's the key to having a good suit game and clothing style?

EKMAN-LARSSON: I don’t know, I haven’t bought a new suit in probably five to six years (laughing). When you get older you kind of lose it a bit. Early on I bought a lot of suits, just as long as they fit, look good, and aren’t too worn out. It’s hard to dress in warmer weather. It kind of limits the material and you don’t want to sweat a lot. I just go with whatever I like that I have, but I do like buying new clothes, even though I’ve slowed down a bit.

DARRAGH: If you could have dinner with three famous people, who would it be?

EKMAN-LARSSON: I’m a big David Beckham fan, I think he would be up there. Maybe Tiger Woods, and let’s go with Roger Federer.

DARRAGH: Which celebrity would you like to see come out to a Panthers game and bang the drum?

EKMAN-LARSSON: David Beckham. I want to see him in the building. I would love to see him at the rink. I’ve always been a big fan, so that would be cool to see.

Related Content