Ekman-Larsson was already playing in a men's league when the Phoenix Coyotes selected him with the No. 6 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. He played the 2008-09 season with Leksands of the Swedish second division and had 17 points in 39 games at age 17, the most points in the league by any player 18 or younger. He played one more season with Leksands, and had 27 points, to lead all teenage players in Sweden's second division prior to moving to North America for the 2010-11 season.
Ekman-Larsson split that season between the Coyotes and San Antonio of the American Hockey League and scored one goal and 11 points in 48 NHL games. He made his NHL debut Oct. 9, 2010 against the Boston Bruins with one assist against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 23, 2011 for his first NHL point. Larsson scored his first NHL goal against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 17, 2011, part of a three-game point streak.