RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 29: Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 and Keith Yandle #3 of the Phoenix Coyotes look on during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Happy 3-day weekend everyone! We celebrate here on the Countdown with a young defenseman for the Coyotes who never takes a shift off. Day 23 looks at Phoenix Coyotes phenom #23, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Read on for more about one of the Coyotes brightest young stars...Oliver Ekman-Larsson (henceforth referred to as OEL) hails from Karlskrona, Sweden. He played junior hockey at Leksands IF before being drafted 6th overall in the 2009 Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He would spend another season over in Sweden before heading to the NHL in 2010-11. OEL played 48 games for the Coyotes that season, finishing with a goal and ten assists before being sent back down to the Coyotes' AHL affiliate.
His trip down to the minors would be short-lived, as he returned to the big team in 2011-12. He would play in all 82 games for the Coyotes, scoring an impressive 13 goals and 19 assists, while finishing with an even +/- rating. Even more impressive, his TOI averaged 22:01 in the regular season.
The Coyotes expect only bigger things from OEL in the coming years. He will likely be paired with returning Coyote Zbynek Michalek on the top-pairing, which means lots of minutes against some of the opponent's best offensive players. His major issue his rookie season was his lack of size and physicality, a problem OEL did a very nice job of improving down in the AHL and in the offseason. If the Coyotes' Harry Potter lookalike can conjure up a season like last year's, he will have very few peers among the NHL's defensive corps.