The Arizona Coyotes had a rough season, finishing second-to-last just above the Buffalo Sabres. As the team heads into the offseason, some of the Coyotes players will represent their countries at the World Championships in the Czech Republic May 1-17. One of those players is team MVP Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Ekman-Larsson can look back at a great season from a personal standpoint, as he broke the record for most goals by a Swedish-born defenseman by netting 23 this season. He was the best goalscorer on the Coyotes and received the team MVP award before the last game of the season against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. He also lead the team in points (43), and logged just over 25 minutes of ice time each game.
OEL will head back to Sweden on Tuesday and will be a big part of the Swedish team that will try to compete for the gold medal in the World Championships. He already has a World Championships bronze medal from the 2010 tournament, a silver medal from the 2011 and a silver medal from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. He’s eager to add a gold medal to the collection.
“It would be amazing to win a gold medal, but it’s a long road to get there,” OEL said as we got a hold of him as he was making the final preparations for his trip back home. “It means a lot to represent your country and any success would be great. We are obviously going for the gold.”
In 22 games for team Sweden, OEL has scored two goals and 8 assists for a total of 10 points. He will most likely be given a big role in the upcoming tournament as he is by far the best Swedish defenseman available to go to the Czech Republic. If coach Par Marts is smart, he will let Ekman-Larsson quarterback the Swedish power play and pair him with a defensive minded player such as Oscar Klefbom of the Edmonton Oilers as long as one of them is comfortable moving over to the right side of defense.
The World Championships is being played on European-sized ice, and although Ekman-Larsson grew up playing in Sweden, he said that it will take some adjustments to get back into the groove of things.
“I’m hoping it won’t take too long. I’ll get a couple of practices and two games before the start of the tournament, so I hope that will be enough,” OEL said.
If Marts gets all the players he wants that are available, team Sweden could put a competitive team on the ice. Besides OEL and Klefbom, it’s already a done deal that Carolina Hurricanes duo Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm will play in the tournament.
There are still a lot of players that haven’t decided yet if they are going to go to the tournament in the Czech Republic as they might be dependent on getting the green light from their team’s medical staff (Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg) or that they are on an outgoing contract (Jhonas Enroth, John Klingberg) as it might be too expensive for the Swedish Hockey Association to insure them in case they would get hurt.
But if they get positive results, team Sweden could have a goalie trio of Enroth, Niklas Svedberg (Boston) and Anders Lindback (Buffalo). Klingberg would be a great addition on the back end as he has been phenomenal during his rookie year with the Stars and having a one-two punch of OEL and Klingberg creating chances from the blue line must be something that makes Marts salivate.
Another Boston Bruins player that could feature in the Swedish team besides Svedberg and Soderberg is Loui Eriksson. The 29-year-old winger had a pretty solid season, scoring 22 goal and 25 assists for 47 points. That puts him in 11th in scoring among the NHL Swedes. Colorado captain Landeskog would be a great addition for the team and despite his young age (22) he’s a natural-born leader. He’s already said yes as long as he gets cleared by the Avalanche’s medical team.
Other potential players from the NHL include Melker Karlsson (San Jose), Joakim Lindstrom (Toronto), Anton Lander (Edmonton), Jacob Josefson (New Jersey), Tim Erixon (Toronto), Nicklas Grossmann (Philadelphia), and William Karlsson (Columbus).