Florida Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson looks primed for a productive 2023-24 season as he should benefit from a range of factors with his new team.
At first glance, the Florida Panthers have a defenseman issue to begin the season as both Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour are sidelined with injuries. Together, the two combined for 30 goals and 111 points last season.
With a large amount of scoring production out of the lineup, the Florida Panthers needed to act.
Enter Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the 32-year-old that signed with the team in free agency this summer. With Ekblad and Montour’s injuries already known at the time, and salary cap room limited, the Panthers added the best available defenseman with puck moving ability that they could afford.
With more than 30 points in 8 of his 13 career seasons, Ekman-Larsson has the history to back up the belief that he will at least produce at a rate consistent with his career but there is some concern after he only recorded 22 points with the Vancouver Canucks last year, and struggled defensively, before being bought out of his contract this summer.
Prediction: Oliver Ekman-Larsson records more than 50 points in 2023-24
Only once in Ekman-Larsson’s career has he gone over 50 points in a season, and that was during the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes.
So, why predict that Ekman-Larsson will eclipse 50 with the Panthers this year?
Firstly, the Coyotes were not a good team in the 11 seasons he spent with them. And his most recent two seasons were spent with Vancouver, a team looking for direction while also dealing with head coaching turnover.
Now, with the Panthers, Ekman-Larsson finds himself in a stable organization with the most talented roster that he has yet to play with in his career.
Having the added on-ice support coupled with the opportunity to play top pairing minutes and quarterback the power play unit until Ekblad and Montour return should at least deliver a modest bump in scoring production.
However, the biggest reasoning for thinking that Ekman-Larsson will come up big this year is that the Florida Panthers are the team that breathes new life into players that have run upon hard times.
Look at Sam Bennett’s turnaround since joining from the Calgary Flames, or Sam Reinhart’s improvement after stagnating with the Buffalo Sabres, or even Montour’s newfound No. 1 defenseman ability he has found since also joining from the Sabres.
It has taken Ekman-Larsson 13 seasons to land in a position with as much potential as this, but now he has the chance to do something special with the Florida Panthers this season.
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