Ex-Canucks blueliner Ekman-Larsson recognized for bounce-back season

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The 32-year-old’s massive contract was bought out by the Canucks last June after a disappointing season. He then signed with the Florida Panthers, where he had a very strong bounce-back.

The veteran was recognized for his efforts today by the Florida Professional Hockey Writers Association chapter as he was named the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

Every team has one nominee. The trophy is awarded annually to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

Ekman-Larsson was originally acquired by the Canucks in a massive trade that altered the direction of the franchise. However, his performance never lived up to expectations, and he struggled to find his footing.

His play was so poor that the Canucks decided to buy out his contract and absorb a stiff penalty that will last through the 2030-31 season. Some hypothesized that his career was coming to an end. This season, the Swedish defenceman has proved all those naysayers wrong.

Ekman-Larsson has more goals this season with the Panthers than he did in his two seasons with the Canucks combined. He hit the 30-point mark for the first time since the 2019-20 season when he did so with the Arizona Coyotes.

The veteran has also been a big part of the special teams for the Panthers. The Eastern Conference team has the NHL’s fifth-best power play, and Ekman-Larsson has helped greatly in that area by chipping in 11 points with the man advantage.

The Panthers are in the top seven teams both by total points and points percentage. They ranked even higher in the standings before a recent slide where they’ve gone 3-6-1 over their last 10 games. Ekman-Larsson has played a big role in the team’s success this year as they look to head back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang won the Masterton Trophy last season in large part for returning to the ice just 12 days after suffering a stroke.