If there was an award for the most underrated player in the NHL, it would undoubtedly go to Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Phoenix Coyotes. The league would probably try to find a loophole through which to hand the trophy to Sidney Crosby, but OEL would have to come out on top in the end.
After all, what could possibly be more quiet than being the best player on the most unassumingly outstanding squad in the NHL? While there’s no denying that Keith Yandle is a beast, Ekman-Larsson’s level of play is slowly creeping toward a Norris Trophy level. If he played in Boston, the Bruins would have handed him a key to the city by now.
On second thought, he probably wouldn’t be tough enough to hang in Boston and they’d trade him to the Dallas Stars. Yet we digress.
The game-winning goal that Ekman-Larsson buried last night was a prime example of what the 22-year-old blueliner can do.
Phoenix is a tough team to stop right now because they can attack in so many layers with so many different players.
Yandle and Ekman-Larsson have been monstrous on the back end, while Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan have been immovable objects in tight. Floating around somewhere in between is Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata, who can snipe and pass from the middle of the ice as well as anyone.
The Coyotes are an alarming 13-4-2 and appear to be the real deal.