First Round Targets: Joel Eriksson Ek

ekheader

He may be Swedish but to me he’s all finish.

Disclaimer: I fully admit to having a bias towards any 17 or
18 year old kid who manages to earn a regular shift in one of the European
Elite Leagues. That’s one of the reasons why I had Nylander ranked third last
year, and that’s why I am falling hard for Joel Eriksson Ek this year.

I will kill any direct comparisons of the two players right
now, by saying that Eriksson Ek is not on the same talent level as Nylander.
What Eriksson lacks in high end offensive talent, he makes up for with being a
center you’d be happy to have on the ice in any situation.

The Numbers

ekrankings

Looking at the expert rankings the interesting outlier is
the beloved Corey Pronman, but the consensus seems to put Eriksson Ek in the
early 20s, with Button being Button and also doing his own thing. We’ll get to
those takes later.

What the numbers tell us about Eriksson Ek is that the
Swedish Hockey League can be difficult place for a teenager. He’s been limited
to four goals and two assists in his 34 games there and has primarily served in
a limited bottom six role. Fun fact, Eriksson Ek plays on a team with fellow likely
first rounder Oliver Kylington, and former Leafs Rickard Wallin and Justin
Pogge.

So while his numbers against fully developed players in
limited ice time leaves a lot to be desired, the same isn’t true of his totals
against his peer group. In the Swedish U-20 league this season Joel scored 21
goals in 25 games (32 points total, 1.28 ppg). He also scored 5 goals in 5
games at the U-18 tournament, and 10 goals, 16 points in the 13 total
international games. This is a continuation of the 16 goal in 19 game
performance that Eriksson Ek had as a 16/17 year old in the U-18 league which
saw him promoted to the U-20 league last season where he managed an over a
point per game pace.

The Eye Test

Any scouting report for Eriksson Ek is littered with the
phrase “200 ft. player” which seems like a bit of deterrent in the post Fredrik
Gauthier world, but as proven in the numbers section above, Eriksson Ek is
above a point per game in every peer league situation he played in, and simply
benefitting from exposure to a different type of role in the Swedish Men’s
League. He’s one of the better skating centers that’s still available, and has
the hands to be an excellent scoring center.

Given their radically different rankings on Joel Eriksson
Ek, it makes sense to see what Craig Button and Corey Pronman have to say about
the Swedish center.

From
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.”

From
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.”

Should He Make the Leafs Shortlist

Hmmm…do I can’t remember, do Swedish centers do well in
Toronto? (please ignore Rickard Wallin when answering this) Obviously I’m not
comparing Eriksson Ek to Mats Sundin, but I will be so bold to compare him to
hastily discarded Alexander Steen whose style of play is remarkably similar to
Eriksson Eks.

Maybe I’m looking at drafting Eriksson Ek as righting the
historical wrong of the Stempniak trade, but there is a definite need to establish
depth down the middle, and after Strome and Zacha, Eriksson Ek is the best
opportunity to add a center with size in this draft who is more than just size.

  • Brooksterman

    This whole Idea they will take the best pure skilled player available just because that’s who Dubas said they were going to pick should be treated with caution because Mark Hunter is making the final decision on who they pick and all he’s said about who they will pick is that they would take the best player available. That definition varies from one person to another in management as each person puts a different value of importance for each skill an individual player has. ie. if at 24th they are trying to decide between Sprong and Eriksson Ek; Dubas may value Sprong as the best available based just on his pure skill; compared to Mark Hunter who may think Eriksson Ek’s 200 ft game, character, size, and position would make a bigger difference than the difference between their pure skill in which case the Leafs would take Eriksson because it’s Hunter’s call at the end. Again I take everything Dubas says about who they will draft and how they will decide who to take with a grain of salt because he doesn’t have final say so in who they pick. I am more likely to believe what Mark Hunter says because Shanahan has made it clear Hunter has the final call on who they take. But Hunter hasn’t really specified his mindset going in other than he’ll take the best guy available and he did admit that most scouts tend to value defense and centres more and of hire importance in the draft than wingers. Other than that it’s wrong for anyone to say for certain who he will take. Yes he did draft Marner in London but they also interviewed McDavid and Eichel about Strome and Hanifin. Plus they want to hire Erie’s head coach so does that mean they want Strome instead? I think it’s too early to jump to any conclusions based on what any tidbits Leafs management gives up. Plus don’t forget they’ll probably leak stuff just for miss direction so that they could squeeze some assets out of teams for them not to take a certain player or to get them to move down.