Jump to content
Hockey Wilderness
  • Bold Prediction: A Monster Season Will Finally Land Joel Eriksson Ek the Selke Trophy

    Kalisha Turnipseed

    Throughout Opening Week, 10K Rinks staff will be going on the record with the boldest predictions they can muster. Will they be proven right? Will their picks go down in flames? We’ll start finding out Thursday.


    Not many people see Joel Eriksson Ek as a 40-goal scorer, the kind of player who puts up the offensive numbers that win Selke Trophies. But that's changing this season. Eriksson Ek is due for an elevation of ice time in all situations, where he can bring the lumber while sprinkling skill in like never before.


    While he's penciled into a shutdown role, what if he finds himself playing next to Matt Boldy, a popular breakout candidate in his own right? Talk about a bold prediction within a bold prediction. But that's a path where he can take the next step from one of the most underrated two-way centers in the NHL to simply one of the best. Eriksson Ek plays big minutes and shuts down players, but he doesn’t get enough appreciation. That's going to change.


    Eriksson Ek is building off a career year at 25 years old, scoring 26 goals while playing a defensive role. But there's another level to unlock. Not only he has the potential to hit 30, but he'll surprise fans again by scoring 40.


    His breakout season will give the Wild a legitimate punch down the middle. Eriksson Ek will lead the way with Ryan Hartman adjusting to his new role, Marco Rossi making noise as a rookie, and Sam Steel solidifying himself as the next Hartman-esque reclamation project. There’s depth to go around; here’s how it can be possible for Eriksson Ek to reach 40 goals.


    In 2020-21, Eriksson Ek finished tied (with Kirill Kaprizov, of course) for first for the Wild with 19 even-strength goals. The first step is getting his even-strength offense back to that level. It starts with playing with Tyson Jost to start the season.


    Jost is expected to play in Jordan Greenway's spot for the first five to ten games of the season. Bill Guerin brought Jost to Minnesota in hopes he'd get more opportunity instead of being buried on the fourth line like he was with the Colorado Avalanche.


    If Jost can stick there, that's an excellent opportunity for Eriksson Ek. Jost is more skilled and more opportunistic than Greenway. While Greenway beats Jost in size differential when it comes to pure skill, Jost has more upside to offer. The Wild call their Eriksson Ek-Greenway-Marcus Foligno combination their identity line, but they can survive without a GREEF line. Unless you’re a generational talent, you need skill around you to unlock your offense, and Eriksson Ek is no exception.


    Jost should have good chemistry with Eriksson Ek, as he's perfectly suited to feed Eriksson Ek around the net. He’s built as a playmaker. Expect many wraparounds by Eriksson Ek thanks to his strong frame and improved edge work learning from the team’s best in Kaprizov.


    And hey, if they change Greenway's spot anyway, how do fans feel about a line consisting of Boldy, Eriksson Ek, and Jost? Tony Abbott mentioned this possibility in an article about loading Minnesota's Top-6 to maximize offense. Why not give this combination a crack?


    Eriksson Ek is the Wild’s top player to shut down opposing stars. That'd still hold up, but now he’d get more offensive flavor with Boldy, a top youngster. Boldy's style is similar to Eriksson Ek, but he can create plays around the net. Jost can create from the perimeter thanks to good speed and vision. It's a perfect recipe for Eriksson Ek to blow up. Eriksson Ek and Boldy have the frames to create space for Jost.


    If Eriksson Ek can score 20 goals at even strength, he'll already fulfill 50% of a 40-goal season.


    Evason is trying a new approach to the power play. Eriksson Ek will have the luxury of playing with very talented players on the team’s top unit. He'll join up with Boldy, Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, and Calen Addison to start the year. These four should be able to create many opportunities for Eriksson Ek, especially around the net, where pounding in rebounds is his calling card.


    Last year, Eriksson Ek finished tied for 19th in the NHL with 12 power-play goals. With an improved supporting cast, he can still score more. There will be a lot of shot generation from Addison at the point. What doesn’t go in will bounce in front of Eriksson Ek, who will be there to clean it up.


    It won't always be pretty, but a goal is a goal. No matter how it goes in, even if it bumps off gloves or skates, Eriksson Ek will work his tail off to ensure pucks go in. Someone’s got to do the dirty work.


    Let's increase Eriksson Ek's power-play goals from 12 to 15, on top of 20 even-strength goals. Suddenly, he's 88% of the way to 40.


    Eriksson Ek will be on the ice when Evason is desperate for the penalty kill to succeed. With the right partner, Eriksson Ek could be dangerous offensively on the kill. Boldy and Rossi could spend some time on the penalty kill. They both have the skill to put pressure on opponents. If he can add, say, three short-handed goals, then now we're at 38 goals.


    And you can't ignore empty-net situations, of course, which Eriksson Ek plays quite a lot of. With his high-quality forechecking, Eriksson Ek can bully forwards and pick up some gimme goals. Do you believe Eriksson Ek can score two empty net goals? If so, boom, 40.


    Getting to 40 goals won’t be easy for Eriksson Ek. He still needs to show he can score 30, but he was already four away last year. How bold is it to say he'll hit 30? Scoring 14 more goals is a bigger challenge, but it's within his reach. It will take a little luck and, of course, having the right linemates for him to score more. But he'll have the opportunities on special teams to get it done.


    That will help set Eriksson Ek apart from the crowd in voting for the Selke Trophy, given to the league's best defensive forward. Modern-day two-way centers can score 30 goals, but 40? That's pretty rare. But Eriksson Ek has that potential, and if he does, he'll finally earn the recognition he deserves.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...