Arizona Coyotes coach Tippett: Oliver Ekman-Larsson is an elite player
To many people, the only good that could come out of the Arizona Coyotes’ 2014-15 season is a top-two draft pick that nets the franchise either Conor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
While nabbing one of the two top prospects in this year’s draft would no doubt be a good thing, the team has more to show from what has transpired over the last handful of months.
Take, for instance, Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The 23-year-old defenseman has emerged as a force for the team, amassing 23 goals and 20 assists to lead the team in points. His goal total is also tops in the NHL among defensemen.
“He’s an elite player and I mentioned to a couple guys yesterday, we were talking about him, his play continues to grow,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “And not just grow, where you say a young player is getting a little better, I mean, he’s an elite player. Leading goal scorer for defensemen in the league; I mean, this guy is top, top notch.”
Ekman-Larsson made his Coyotes debut in the 2010-11 season, scoring 11 total points in 48 games. He tallied 32 points in 2011-12, 24 in the lockout-shortned 2012-13 campaign, and 44 last season.
But along with his growth as an effective player, Tippett praised his young player’s maturation as a leader on the team.
“It’s really come to the forefront since (Antoine) Vermette and (Keith) Yandle were moved at the trade deadline,” he said. “He wants to be part of the solution here, he wants to be part of our organization. He signed long-term; he wants to make sure the thing goes the right way.”
The coach said a player of OEL’s age having that kind of mindset and willingness to be a leader — along with what he’s capable of on the ice — shows how special he is.
“He’s going to be a real part of the solution going forward,” he said. “Had a poor start to the season — not a poor start — but he put on some weight at the start of the year and tried to play a little bit heavier. He struggled with that a little bit, came back down to his playing weight that he had been before and he’s had an excellent rest of the season.
“So I expect him to start next year and I would be very surprised if you’re not talking about him him with the Norris Trophy as best defenseman in the coming years.”