DDB: Ekman-Larsson emerging as key cog

Oct 17, 2011, 8:35 PM | Updated: 9:48 pm

GLENDALE – Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson appears
poised to have a breakout season in the NHL.

Ekman-Larsson’s three goals in four games this season are
tops in the NHL among defensemen and tied for fifth for
all skaters.

“Ekman-Larsson has taken the next step,” Coyotes Head
Coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday’s 4-1 win over
Winnipeg. “He is a good player that is trying to get
better every day. In practice he works hard, in games he
works hard and he is starting to get rewarded for his hard

Ekman-Larsson is certainly making a name for himself in
2011-12. And a few nicknames.

Many fans have been referring to Ekman-Larsson simply as
“OEL” since Phoenix selected him with the sixth overall
pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Others prefer “The
Hyphen.” And after last night’s game, Coyotes captain
Shane Doan made it known that he and his teammates call
Ekman-Larsson “Harry Potter” because of his resemblance to
the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s most
famous student (see photo).

“It is uncanny, if you put the glasses on him, how much he
looks like him,” Doan said.”It’s scary.”

Ekman-Larsson is a 20-year-old Swede who is working on his
English. Understandably, he’s a man of few words in his
post-game interviews.

“It’s always fun to score and I feel more comfortable out
there,” Ekman-Larsson said after Saturday’s game. “I only
had one goal last year, but I’m playing more and I feel
better and I’ll try to keep it up.”

Tippett raved about Ekman-Larsson during training camp and
continued to do so after Saturday’s win.

“That position is a hard position for young players to
play and what you see in Ekman-Larsson is that he is
really buying into the details of the game,” Tippett said.
“He is making good, simple plays. He is not getting
himself in trouble and his skill is really showing.”

Ekman-Larsson has been paired with veteran Adrian Aucoin,
who is 18 years his senior. By all accounts, Aucoin has
been a good mentor for Ekman-Larsson, and Aucoin’s
steadiness in the defensive zone has enabled OEL/The
Hyphen/Harry to be more aggressive in the offensive zone.

“I think last year he showed flashes and I think the
reason why he was doing that was because he didn’t really
know any better,” Aucoin said. “Now he knows how really
good he can be and that makes a big difference.”

Aucoin and Ekman-Larsson sit next to each other in the
dressing room. Aucoin said the young blueliner is always
eager to talk about the game and listen to words of

“He’s as easygoing as they come,” Aucoin said. “It’s
actually ridiculous how easy the task of helping him out
is because he’ll work as hard as he can and do anything
anybody tells him. He’s a great guy to have around in that

New Coyotes goalie Mike Smith also has been impressed by

“The kid’s got all the skill in the world to be an elite
defenseman in this league,” Smith said.

• Kodette LaBarbera, who is co-leading a fund-raising
effort to help the families of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
team that were affected by the tragic plane crash that
took place last month in Russia, tells me that
approximately 20,000 memorial bracelets have been sold
thus far.

Memorial bracelet for the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team.
“We’ve had orders from Australia, Germany, France,
Austria, Russia, Israel, Ireland, and all over the U.S.
and Canada,” said Kodette, who is married to Coyotes
goalie Jason LaBarbera. “It’s been amazing to see how many
corners of the world we have touched with these bracelets…
All hockey wives and girlfriends have been so eager to
help, and it’s been an amazing combined effort. It’s so
great to see the unity.”

All of the money raised is going to families through a
partnership with Coyotes Charities and the Arizona
Community Foundation.

The bracelets again will be on sale at Jobing.com Arena on
Tuesday night when the Coyotes host the Chicago

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com and
follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
For information on upcoming Phoenix Coyotes games, please

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DDB: Ekman-Larsson emerging as key cog