It was a very risky move to acquire him as he is declining and came with a very big cap hit for six more seasons. Ekman-Larsson was at his peak in 2016 and he probably should have won the Norris Trophy back then.
He still put up decent offensive numbers in his last two seasons with the Arizona Coyotes but has been poor on the defensive side.
However, then-general manager Jim Benning didn’t think much of Ekman-Larsson’s decline and wanted him to be the on the Canucks top-pairing.
“He’ll be a top-pairing guy, can play a lot of minutes, PP, PK, can be a match-up guy playing against the other team’s top lines,” said Benning after acquiring Ekman-Larsson.
So far this season, Ekman-Larsson has mainly been the number two left-handed defenceman behind Quinn Hughes. OEL is third on the Canucks in ice time with 541:41. Tyler Myers leads the team with 632:16 and Hughes is behind him with 541:47.
The 30-year-old hasn’t looked bad this season. In fact, he has done really well defensively. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gave out an interesting stat about Ekman-Larsson in his latest 32 Thoughts column.
OEL’s defensive game has been solid this season. According to NaturalStatTrick, he has only given up four high danger chances at five-on-five this season and that is also first among NHL defencemen who have played at least 500 minutes.
Below Ekman-Larsson makes a good defensive play by forcing the puck carrier into the boards which causes him to lose the puck.
He’s been making plays like this all season. He also helped out by blocking shots,(16 on the season.) taking the puck away and breaking it out of the defensive zone. Maybe getting away from the environment in Arizona helped.
Some of it has to do with great goaltending and it may not be the same level it was in 2016 but Ekman-Larsson has looked really sound defensively this season.
He does need to provide some more offence
Ekman-Larsson was acquired because he could put up points.
So far, he only has two goals and four assists for 6 points in 31 games. That is on pace for five goals and 10 assists for 15 points. That would be OEL’s lowest point total since his rookie season where he had eleven points. Since then, he has put up at least 20 points.
It’s not like Ekman-Larsson has been trying to put up points. He leads all Canucks defencemen in shots on goal with 83 and is fifth on the team in that category. He is eighth on the team in Corsi for with 51.28% and first in high danger Corsi for with 51.32% and third in expected goals with 22.68.
The offensive analytics are great but he needs to put up some points to justify his 7.26 million dollar contract. Sure, playing behind Hughes and being on the second power play has reduced his offensive role but with his cap hit, you have to expect more offensive output.