Two of the best young defenseman in the league will descend upon the Honda Center Saturday night when the Anaheim Ducks take on the Phoenix Coyotes.
For the Ducks, Cam Fowler has been a revelation this season, breaking through and becoming the team’s best all-around defenseman. Shaking off the label as an ‘offense only’ defender, Fowler has flourished under the further tutelage of Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer whose game is similar to Fowler’s.
After a rocky start to the season, Fowler has become the leader for the defense, leading the squad in points from the defenders and average time on ice. Fowler has also become a part of the team’s top shutdown pairing, along with Ben Lovejoy, using their skating ability to put themselves in the right position to defend the top opposing lines.
For the Coyotes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been to them what Fowler has been to the Ducks. Leading the team in ice time per game and defensive points, Ekman-Larsson is starting to stand out not only among the league’s younger defenseman, but all blue liners.
‘I think Oliver is starting to establish himself as an elite defenseman in the NHL. His ice time has increased and you can tell that the Coyotes are counting on him as well. He is a very skilled player and a great skater. He sees the ice real well and is making great decision with the puck.’
Nicklas Lidstrom on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ESPN Article by Pierre LeBrun
To get praise from easily the best defenseman of his generation speaks volumes of where Ekman-Larsson is at in his progression as a defender.
It is almost unfair at times to be a defender and get drafted so high. The pressure to produce immediately (especially these days) is an unfair expectation of young defenders. Both players had early success in their careers, as well as endure the true hardships of the position. Fowler started his career with a plus/minus of -57, but is currently in the plus this season.
It takes time for defenders to truly get adjusted to the NHL, and it looks like both of these players have reached that break through point, and are giving their respective teams everything they wanted out of them when they drafted them so early in the draft, and give us two exciting blue liners for the next five-ten years.
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Category||Cam Fowler|
|.908||Goals For/20 minutes^||.709|
|.594||Goals Against/20 minutes^||.580|
|1.7||Offensive Point Share*||1.7|
|2.1||Defensive Points Share *||1.5|
|3.8||Total Points Share*||3.2|
*Stat is from Hockey-Reference.com
^Stat is from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, last updated December 20
Anthony Murphy is the Editor at Pucks of a Feather. You can reach him by email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.