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 had spent the 2008-09 season with Leksands of the Swedish second division, collecting 17 points in 39 games as a 17 year old, the most points recorded in the league by any player 18 or younger. He spent one more season with Leksands, recording 27 points, to lead all teenaged 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, and collected an assist Oct. 23, 2011, against the Carolina Hurricanes, for his first NHL point. Larsson scored his first NHL goal Jan. 17, 2011, against the San Jose Sharks, part of a three-game point streak.