SUNRISE — In his preseason debut, Oliver Ekman-Larsson looked like the player the Florida Panthers brought him in to be.
Coach Paul Maurice said he was in no rush to get to work on his special teams units during training camp but the Nashville Predators forced the issue during the first of two preseason games on Monday.
Florida found itself on the power play nine times after Nashville got itself into penalty trouble early and often.
That allowed the Panthers to get a real good look at how Ekman-Larsson would quarterback their top unit — and they liked what they saw.
The 32-year-old defenseman finished the night with three assists — two on the power play — and also had two hits, two blocked shots and a shot on goal in close to 21 minutes of ice time.
It certainly is early, but Ekman-Larsson provided a strong case to back up the reason why Florida brought him in via free agency following two subpar seasons in Vancouver.
“Oliver Ekman-Larsson is elite in this league at getting the puck to the net and that is probably the first place that I would look as part of the reason we signed him,” Maurice said.
“He is one of the very best, just looking at the numbers he has put up, at getting the puck off the wall to the middle and getting that puck to the net.”
With Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour expected to miss the first two months of the season, the Panthers need someone to run the top power play unit and Ekman-Larsson may just fit the bill.
Gus Forsling was also considered to be a favorite to earn some power play time heading into training camp but Ekman-Larsson seems to have the upper hand at this time.
In the opening game Monday, it was Ekman-Larsson running the first unit with Forsling manning the second.
Maurice confirmed that when asked about the possibility of Forsling manning the top unit last week during training camp, reiterating that while the 27-year-old may get some power play time, they brought Ekman-Larsson in for a reason and that was his reputation as an effective power play quarterback.
And during his preseason debut, he backed that up pretty quickly.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
PRESEASON AT CAROLINA HURRICANES
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: PNC Bank Arena, Raleigh
- TV/Radio: None
- Streaming: FloridaPanthers.com
LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE PANTHERS
- Friday: Preseason vs. Carolina, 6 p.m.
- Sunday: Preseason vs. Ottawa at Sydney, Nova Scotia; 4 p.m. (NHLN)
- Oct. 3: Preseason vs. Tampa Bay at Orlando Arena, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5: Preseason at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Preseason vs. Tampa Bay, 6 p.m.
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (BSF)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)