There were a lot of groans and moans when the Wild selected the "most-Fletcher" player in this year's draft in the 1st round. The perception was that the Wild had gone for a safe pick, a player that was guaranteed to at least make the NHL but not have a high enough ceiling to blow the roof off it. This perception is wholly unfair to Eriksson Ek (and fundamentally flawed given that a player's overall game is more important than whether or not he has high-end offensive skill). He has shown promising goal scoring ability so far in his young career and has a mouth-watering skillset.
Eriksson Ek is an 18 year old, 6'2", 183lbs, Swedish centre who has worked his way through the ranks in the Färjestad BK organisation and will take the ice with them in the SHL in this coming season. He was a fast riser in most draft rankings over last season before being selected 20th overall by the Wild in the NHL Entry Draft. He is instantly the best centre prospect in the Wild's system (sorry to mssrs Graovac, Peterson, Duke, Jenys, Bertschy and Gilmour) and is already being touted as a future successor to Mikko Koivu. That would be nice, wouldn't it?
In terms of playing style, Eriksson Ek has been compared with a lot of different players including; Derek Brassard, Alexander Steen, Nino Niederreiter and Sean Couturier. One thing that scouts agree on is that he is a true 200 ft player; hard-working and competitive, he's got a gritty game and uses his physicality extremely well to dominate puck battles. He gets a lot of nods for his leadership and hockey sense too, but don't let those intangibles put you off, Eriksson Ek can score goals and, while he doesn't possess remarkable speed, he's got one hell of a shot and knows how to get business done around the net.
He's scored above a point-per-game pace within his own age group every season so far in his career in both the regular season and playoffs as well as dominating for Sweden at international tournaments. He got the ball rolling this season with a goal in Färjestad's opening SHL game and with 6 points in 4 games for Sweden U20. This is a big season for the young Swede as the Wild will be hoping his rapid rise continues and he can score at a good rate while playing significant minutes against grown men in the SHL.
Here's a good quote about Eriksson Ek from ESPN's Corey Pronman:
I wouldn't classify him as a dominant player, but whether he's playing in front of the net on the power play, creating from the side boards, killing off penalties, checking good players, taking a key draw, or being the extra man when the team needs a goal, coaches always can rely on Eriksson.
...and one from TSN's Craig Button:
He is a well-balanced centre who can play in any situation. He's an intelligent player who reads the play quickly, taking advantage both offensively and defensively. Good skills and is comfortable playing in any style of game and has a strong competitive approach. Maturity will be longer but potential is high.
So there's a lot of promising stuff being thrown around about the young Swede. I'm excited to see what he can become if he keeps developing at this rate. He could be a fixture on the Wild's 2nd line and 1st PK unit for many years to come.
Hit me up on Twitter @GerWilderness
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