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Oliver Ekman-Larsson: the next Erik Karlsson?

Phoenix Coyotes v Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 12: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings takes a hit from Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period at Joe Louis Arena on January 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Gregory Shamus

Judging by the fact that he currently has a point-per-game, there’s really only one defenseman quite like Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson. (In fact, there are just six forwards who have more points than his 70 this season.)

Still, the NHL is brimming with young talent and former general manager Brian Lawton pegs Phoenix Coyotes blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson as just a season behind the Senators stud.



Interesting thought, but how does that comment stack up? Let’s look at some of the similarities between the two:

  • They’re both Swedish (and their last names end in -sson, which is super-relevant, I know).
  • Each guy was drafted in the first round. Backing up Lawton, Karlsson was selected 15th overall in 2008 (and is 21 years old) while the Coyotes tabbed the 20-year-old Ekman-Larsson at No. 6 in 2009.
  • Strong sophomore seasons: after partial rookie seasons, both played well in their second (and first full) campaigns. OEL is at 28 points while Karlsson finished with 45, although Ekman-Larsson’s -1 rating is more palatable than Karlsson’s -30 from 2010-11. (Naturally the two situations aren’t the same, which is why plus/minus is a shaky stat.)

Sure, there are some differences - most obviously, Karlsson has a right-handed shot while OEL shoots with his left - but Lawton doesn’t seem out of his mind or making the comparison.

Ekman-Larsson may struggle to flirt with Karlsson’s crazy numbers in a less wide-open system in Phoenix, yet it seems like there are some intriguing similarities between the two players’ paths. What do you think - is OEL on his way to becoming a star close to Karlsson’s scale?

(Either way, the Coyotes and Senators must be delighted to have stars who are so bright at such a young age.)