GLENDALE – Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson set career highs across the board in 2013-14, and as the NHL Awards season gets going this week he will be mentioned in the Norris Trophy conversation.
Ekman-Larsson, who placed seventh in Norris Trophy voting last season, set career highs for goals (15), assists (29), points (44), power-play goals (eight), game-winning goals (six) and shots on goal (199) this season. He also played well defensively and led the team/ranked sixth in the NHL in ice time/per game (25:53). Plus, he was one of only 13 NHL defensemen to score a shootout goal this season.
"I think I played pretty good up to the Olympic break and then I came back and I was very excited to be back after the Olympic break," said Ekman-Larsson, who, with his Swedish teammates, won a silver medal in Sochi. "Overall, I had a pretty good year."
Pretty good? He’s being modest. Just ask Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett about how the 22-yeard-old Swede performed as an elite, two-way NHL defenseman this season.
"He plays both sides of the puck very well and plays well in every situation," Tippett said during the season."Whether it’s on the power play, killing penalties or occasionally double-shifting, he does things at a very high level."
Goalie Mike Smith agrees.
"We‘re lucky to have him," Smith said during the season. "His intelligence on the ice sets him apart. He’s smart and he can play defense. That’s a great combination."
Like his teammates, Ekman-Larsson was disappointed the Coyotes failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We didn’t make the playoffs and that was our goal when the season started," Ekman-Larsson said. "We need to be more consistent in our game if we’re going to have a chance to make the playoffs next year. It’s not good enough to play five good games and then play bad for 10 games. So, we need to get more consistency in our group."
Ekman-Larsson experienced several key moments during the 2013-14 NHL season:
• On Oct. 26, he matched his career-high with a three-point game vs. Edmonton Oilers; he had one goal and two assists in a 5-4 win.
• On Nov. 12, he scored the game-winning goal vs. St. Louis 56 seconds into overtime to help the Coyotes pick up their seventh win in eight games.
• On Jan. 28, he notched the third two-goal game of his NHL career to key a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
• On March 6, he notched the 100th point of his NHL career vs. Montreal with his parents and more than 30 friends of his family from Sweden in attendance at Jobing.com Arena. The friends showed their support of Ekman-Larsson at the game by wearing half Swedish/half Coyotes sweaters with Ekman-Larsson’s name on the back. Ekman-Larsson signed all 30-plus sweaters for his supporters and visited with them at times during their weeklong stay in Scottsdale.
• On March 22, he scored a highlight-reel goal vs. Boston that won’t soon be forgotten.
• On March 27, he played in the 250th game of his NHL career.
• On April 8, he scored a dramatic, game-tying goal vs. Columbus with 14.6 seconds left in regulation to help the Coyotes earn a valuable point as they tried to earn a postseason berth.
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