The Phoenix Coyotes are bouncing back nicely from last season’s rare playoff miss, and leading the way is the elite defencemen duo of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle. With 11 points, the two Desert Dogs are tied for first in scoring amongst NHL blueliners – sharing the point lead with the most recent Norris trophy winners, P. K. Subban 13′ and Erik Karlsson 12′.
Offence from the defence is one of the best assets a team can possess in the NHL. Last season’s defencemen point leaders were Subban and Kris Letang, tied with 38. The Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins won their divisions largely based on incredible offensive production from the blue line.
The Coyotes played great in October. After the first month their record of 9-3-2 places them 3rd in the incredibly tough Pacific Division, only two points behind the headline hogging San Jose Sharks.
OEL and Yandle are sure bets to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics for their respective native countries, Sweden and USA, respectively. Both will likely garner top minutes at the tournament in Sochi, Russia.
The Coyotes won three games in a row to close out a great first month. They beat the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, scoring a total of 12 goals. OEL and/or Yandle were involved on the scoresheet for 7 of twelve tallies earned in the recent streak. Their contributions are hugely influencing the final outcome of Yotes games.
The great thing about OEL and Yandle (and this is what makes Phoenix so strong this season) is that both defenders play exceptionally well in their own zone, too. The Coyotes top-two are not simply rovers who can score, they prevent goals effectively.
The season is young and much will change in many NHL statistical leader boards between now and April, however, OEL and Yandle finishing near the top in defencemen points would not be a big surprise when all is said and done. It would actually be more surprising if they drop out of the top ten. Their early offensive success is no fluke.