Minnesota Wild: Joel Eriksson Ek’s time is now

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 22: Joel Eriksson Ek
NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 22: Joel Eriksson Ek /

The time is now for young forward Joel Eriksson Ek to make his mark as a full-time member of the Minnesota Wild.

The 2015 NHL draft featured some of the most talented young players in the past decade. Many teams that were fortunate enough to pick in the first round are already reaping the rewards with budding superstars like Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres), and Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets). Thankfully, the Minnesota Wild also had a first round pick in this draft. 

Despite picking 20th, the Minnesota Wild got a steal of a pick in center Joel Eriksson Ek. After spending three seasons with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), it’s now time for the young center to follow his fellow draftmates steps as he makes the full-time transition to the NHL. 

Center depth in the NHL is a rare, but valuable asset. The Wild trio of Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula formed a dangerous 1-2-3 punch for much of last season. The depth helped Minnesota finish second place in the Western Conference, up from eighth the previous season. 

After trading Haula to the Vegas Golden Knights and losing Martin Hanzal to the Dallas Stars during free agency, Eriksson Ek appears to be one of the guys filling their shoes on the Wild roster. In fact, he’s expected to open as the third-line center, a huge opportunity for the young forward. 

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Even so, Eriksson Ek is no stranger to playing professionally, as he started playing for Färjestad BK at 17 years old. In his time in the SHL, Eriksson Ek’s point totals and consistency improved each season. In his first season, he had six points in 34 games followed by 15 in 41 games and 16 in just 26 games. 

The reason Eriksson Ek spent less time in his final season with Färjestad BK was due to spending time with the Wild. In 15 games with Minnesota, he put up three goals and four assists, respectable numbers given his limited role. 

As arguably the most talented, promising prospect the Wild has seen in years, the hype has never been more real for the 20-year-old. He’s added weight to his 6’2″ frame, going from 197 pounds to 203 pounds, and has impressed during the preseason with three assists in four games.

If the Wild wants to establish themselves as perennial contenders and get past the first round of the playoffs, they need Eriksson Ek to fill in behind Staal and Koivu. If he can make the same contributions he did for Färjestad BK, while playing on a smaller sheet of ice under offensive mastermind Bruce Boudreau, the Wild will benefit immensely.

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And let’s ask ourselves: Wouldn’t it be great to have a young star on the same level as those playing for the Oilers, Maple Leafs, Sabres, or Blue Jackets? Let’s hope that star is Eriksson Ek.