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  • Joel Eriksson Ek Can Make A Selke Run This Year

    Image courtesy of Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims

    Patrice Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy six times in the past 11 years. The former Boston Bruins center racked up awards with his impressive play on both ends of the ice. Bergeron won the Selke last year but won’t win it this year – because he retired. That opens the door for another two-way center to finally put the league on notice and throw his name into the hat for a chance to take home the prestigious trophy. 

    No, not Freddy Gaudreau

    We’re talking about Joel Eriksson Ek.

    Eriksson Ek had a breakout season offensively last year, especially as a goal-scorer. But he’s taken his game to another level this year. With a whopping 14 goals and 22 points, Eriksson Ek is on pace to smash his career-high in goals of 26 by tucking 37. The Swede is quietly tied for ninth in the NHL in goals while leading the team in the same category by three. Eriksson Ek is on pace for a 58-point season, three shy of the career high he set last year. 

    Bergeron won in 2021-22 and 2022-23 with 65 and 58 points, respectively. With 61 points last year, Eriksson Ek would not have outscored Bergeron in 2022-23. Ek’s point totals are certainly in the ballpark of Bergeron. The offensive side of the game is not holding Eriksson Ek back. 

    It’s not like Eriksson Ek hasn't been in the Selke conversation. In 2021-22, Eriksson Ek finished sixth, and he finished ninth in 2022-23. There are pundits around the NHL who see Eriksson Ek's impact on both ends of the ice. It just hasn’t been enough to launch him into the top five. 

    The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) gives the award "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." So, while Ek’s offensive stats may be on par with Bergeron's, does Ek have enough on the defensive side to be a true contender for the award? 

    First, we must see what the other stats voters value. The PWHA wants players with strong defensive stats, but faceoffs are also a big part of the award. The award almost always goes to a center because of their heightened defensive responsibilities and knack for taking faceoffs. 

    Last season, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner finished third in Selke voting while leading the league in takeaways. Marner also put up 99 points in 80 games. That did not hurt his case, either. But Bergeron won the award. The Minnesota North Stars drafted the last winger who won the award. Jere Lehtinen took home the Selke in 2003.

    Most players who received Selke votes last year ranked highly in xGF% (expected goals for %). Bergeron, Nico Hischier, Jordan Staal, and Mikael Backlund finished in the top 20 in xGF% and the top six in Selke voting. 

    Bergeron also excelled in GA/60. Bergeron had the second-lowest mark in the NHL last season with 1.24. None of his other challengers were even close. That’s a tougher stat to associate with individual players because of the impact forward lines can have. But Bergeron didn’t always play with the same trio and excelled even when he was not playing with Brad Marchand.

    But players ultimately win the Selke in the faceoff circle. 

    Below is the list of most faceoff wins from 2022-23:


    Then we have a list of the Selke Trophy voting: 


    Notice anything? 

    Faceoff wins is the statistic that has the most direct correlation to Selke votes. Sidney Crosby and Bo Horvat are not known for their defensive games. But all the guys below them on that list are, and all of them received Selke votes. 

    Selke finalists need to: 

    Be in the top of the league in faceoff wins

    Have good underlying defensive stats 

    And have a very good offensive season (50+ points)

    Bergeron never was one of the league’s best offensive players. But he won more faceoffs than most other players and had elite defensive statistics. Anze Kopitar has won the award twice and still wins faceoffs. He has good underlying stats, produces offensively, and is in the annual Selke conversation. 

    Eriksson Ek was 19th in the NHL in faceoff wins in 2021-22, the same year he had a breakout season on the GREEF line and set career highs in goals and points. That put him in the mix for the Selke, and he ended up finishing sixth in voting. Last year, Eriksson Ek finished 21st in faceoff wins while separating from the GREEF line and setting a career-high in points again. Is Eriksson Ek on pace to steal the top spot this season now that Bergeron is gone? 

    If we follow Bergeron’s track record, Eriksson Ek is fine in the scoring department. Eriksson Ek’s underlying numbers are as strong as ever. He’s eighth in GA/60 with 1.68 and has been doing an elite job limiting shots. The 2015 first-rounder is 20th in the league in shots against per 60 minutes (SA/60). To cap it off, Eriksson Ek is 11th in the league in expected goals against per 60 minutes with 2.31. 

    But faceoffs are the final puzzle piece. The actual percentage of faceoffs a player wins doesn’t matter; it's just the amount. Eriksson Ek has never had a positive faceoff percentage, winning 47.1% of his faceoffs in his career. 

    Eriksson Ek is 12th in the NHL in faceoff wins. If we track the faceoff win percentage and forecast it through a full season, He should win about 825 faceoffs this year. Compare that to Elias Lindholm, the man who’s been in the voting before and is currently second in faceoff wins. Lindholm is on pace for 919 faceoff wins, meaning it’s unlikely Eriksson Ek will catch him. 

    But Eriksson Ek has room to improve his faceoff percentages to become a player like Lindholm, who wins about 55% of his faceoffs. Eriksson Ek would then be one pace to beat Lindholm by about 10 faceoff wins. The Wild are giving Eriksson Ek the opportunities; he needs to win more faceoffs. 

    Following Bergeron’s retirement, the Selke race is finally open, and Eriksson Ek has a chance to obtain some hardware. His offense is fine, and his defense is great. If Eriksson Ek can improve his faceoff win percentage to even 52 or 53 percent, he’ll be right in the thick of the Selke race at season’s end.

    All stats and data via Evolving Hockey, Hockey DB, Hockey Reference, and MoneyPuck.com unless otherwise noted.

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    Who are we kidding? Ek may deserve the recognition, and may even be in the top 3, but this will be won by a much larger market player. I'm betting it's Kopitar.

    This is one reason why I put very little stock in end of the season awards. They really do pretty much eliminate any team in the fly over zones. You'd think as Russo grows in national prominence, that the Wild would get a little more favorable coverage.

    So, I wonder how much the front office mess will affect Ek's chances?

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    More importantly than a shiny award, something someone posted on another forum struck me.

    PLD, who was just signed to $8.5mx8 has 12 points.  EEK has more goals than that, and is making $5.25m...just insane.  Either that or we dodged a bullet for an "elite" 1C in the free agency market.

    Edited by Citizen Strife
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    definately a red flag when players bounce around to often early  .Columbus, Winnipeg, LA  makes you wonder   , heck even none of our players demand trades  so thats a good sign considdering everything theyre willing to play through .  

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    20 hours ago, Dango said:

    heck even none of our players demand trades  so thats a good sign considdering everything theyre willing to play through .  

    I think that is a testament to how nice it is to play in St. Paul. A mid-market team that takes its hockey like a large market team. That big city pressure is missing, the area seems to be a little more suburban, maybe, like the atmosphere where the players grew up in. 

    Sure, maybe there's not as much to do, but the demands on players to make public appearances appear to be less also. Out of all of the major sports, I'd say St. Paul fits the lifestyle of hockey players better than all the other sports. Therefore, we should have players wanting to stay.

    Also, another factor that shouldn't be missed is that even in the other sports, many of the athletes when they retire stay in the area. To me, that's a real good sign.

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    In a matter of a week, we swept the Bruins series. The beasts of the east. You'd have to say this would add to the confidence of the team. 

    I'd also like to once again point out that Goligoski had a solid game, as did Bogosian. Sometimes, I wonder about Goligoski and his decision making but it worked out ok last night. Also, to me, Bogosian looks better than a 3rd pairing defender. It looks like he's skating a bit faster, and has no problem handling the extra ice time. In comparison, we'd have been in a real pickle if this would have been Addison back there. 

    There are still some things that need to be pointed out:

    1. Duhaime had a spirited bout which I thought he handled well
    2. Ek played like a Selke candidate last night
    3. Boldy is still learning, and I'd hope he'd learn to be more decisive. For instance, make up his mind he's going to beat you driving the net and just get it done. There is a power forward game missing right now, and it appears he needs to build up a little more strength to execute that part.
    4. We don't even need to mention Faber, he was just good. In fact, when there is Faber news it will probably be when he has an off game. 
    5. It was nice to see Foligno on the score sheet in a different column than PIM.
    6. In the Hynes' era, this is the 1st game where the team that scored the 1st goal didn't win. We've gone a lot of games for that to happen. 
    7. We were able to accomplish this without Jimmy and Tank. 
    8. Fleury was hot again. I'm glad his workload was down.

    Boston had gotten blown out in Winnipeg the night before. Apparently Montgomery was not too happy and they came out playing it very tight. Chances were down for both teams. Did anyone notice the shot totals switch after our 2nd goal? All of a sudden, looking at the screen we were up to 30 in what was a tight checking game. 

    Another thing I watched and enjoyed was the Ek-Coyle battle. I was always a Coyle fan while he was here. They battled hard, but it was a clean battle, even though sometimes they both went down into a heap. We probably should have just made Coyle our 3rd line C and kept riding that. I think he and Niederreiter could have been terrific linemates and still be effective today. But, we have what we have now. 

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    Based on the above post, I started wondering: How are the fab 4 we had tabbed in the organization doing? Of course there were 6, but we'll focus on the forwards, this year

    • Charlie Coyle 32gp 10-11-21
    • Nino Niederreiter 32gp 10-10-20
    • Mikael Granlund 27gp 4-19-23
    • Jason Zucker 26gp 5-5-10
    • Bonus Eric Haula 27gp 8-7-15

    That's not terrible production from the guys we had. You just have to wonder what could have been?

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    23 hours ago, Citizen Strife said:

    PLD, who was just signed to $8.5mx8 has 12 points. 

    This guy had a reputation of taking nights off correct?   This is exactly the type of player you don’t bring in at that AAV.  I trust BG to avoid these types.  Foligno has his warts but I trust he’s going to bring it every night and I suspect BG does too

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    48 minutes ago, mnfaninnc said:

    Charlie Coyle 32gp 10-11-21

    Nino Niederreiter 32gp 10-10-20

    Mikael Granlund 27gp 4-19-23

    Jason Zucker 26gp 5-5-10

    Bonus Eric Haula 27gp 8-7-15

    So this is the value we received in return for each trade:

    Coyle turned into Donato which turned into a 3rd pick which we used to move up 2 spots to get Wallstedt.

    Nino turned into Rask which turned into future considerations.

    Granlund turned into Fiala which turned into Faber and Ohgren.

    Zucker turned into Lambos and Addison which turned into a future 5th rd.

    Haula and Tuch went to Vegas in the expansion so we could keep Dumba.

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    I just went through the month of December highlights for the Iowa Wild. A couple of things to report-

    • Wallstedt was pulled in his last start. McIntyre has had the net for 2 consecutive starts. To me, this says Wallstedt is day to day. He was shelled in his last outing, I wonder if he was trying to play through something?
    • For Pewter, Beckman is hurt. He may, or may not, have been called up, but being hurt certainly canceled him off that list. Lucchini is one of those vets that the Wild brought in for depth. Often, the team will give those guys a little extra on their A contract, and a even higher guarantee (meaning they will be expected to be called up at some point). Without looking at capfriendly, I suspect Lettieri and Lucchini are 2 of these guys. Mermis may also be one. 
    • Bankier is playing a significant role in the offense right now.
    • The defense looks extremely leaky. In the highlights, it's mostly Welinski and Hunt that I'm seeing. From the camera angle, when we get scored on, I am not seeing the backs of players for numbers. 
    • They showed a bunch of great Wallstedt saves. Unfortunately, these saves are HDSC saves where the defense hung him out to dry.
    • Also, Iowa is experimenting with a 5 forward PP. What this means is that guys like Lambos, Masters, Spacek are not getting opportunities to run the PP, and I did see Welinski back there too (maybe the 2nd unit). 
    • Petan is on a scoring heater.
    • Sammy Walker is getting hot.

    Iowa is staying in the heat of the race in the central. Last I looked, they were in 3rd place. After a slow start, they reeled off some wins. As I mentioned earlier, Hunter Jones had been recalled to sit in the backup goalie chair. So, that makes me think something's not right with The Wall. But, nothing's been reported so I'd assume it's d2d. 

    I like that they're winning, and I think that's important, but I'd also like to think the young defenders are getting ample opportunity. I haven't found TOI numbers for the A.

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    The thing about the original "great core" was that they would be so inconsistent.  I think only Granlund managed a 70-point season once while he was here.  Zucker and Nino were 25-goal scorers, but little else.  Coyle would be nice as a 3rd C, but at the time, I think the Wild needed a LOT more than that.  Staal was amazing for like two seasons, but Koivu was on his way WAY down pretty quickly.  Coyle couldn't really do more than be Hartman-esque: good for a few games, cold for a few games, repeat.  

    It ended up really frustrating.  There was definitely talent there.  However, none of those players were that game changer Kaprizov (and even Fiala to an extent) were.  If you could add Kap, Fiala, and Zuccarello to the core they had before Koivu and other started faltering, the offense would have been really something special.  Add Faber to that defense, and good lord.  There's like zero holes to deal with.  Not sure how you'd balance contracts, but there was a "ceiling" that certain players now just don't really have.  Kap, current Ek, and Faber especially tilt the ice more than any players from the past, other than Gaborik.

    Sure, no guarantees any of these players now end up in any different positions than the previous ones: but something about Kaprizov and Faber (and Ek being 3-5 years older) just adds a completely new dimension to the team.  They are still offensively lacking, but I think they are more stout defensively than at any point.

    God I hate that Hanzal trade so much...what could have been.

    Edited by Citizen Strife
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    4 hours ago, mnfaninnc said:

    We probably should have just made Coyle our 3rd line C and kept riding that. I think he and Niederreiter could have been terrific linemates and still be effective today. But, we have what we have now. 

    I think the expectation was that Coyle would be 1-C or 1st line RW but that was never his skill set. He is great as a 3rd line forward. NN is a straight line missile and should have succeeded at that but kept getting jacked around (in my opinion). They are the two I would like to have kept although I liked Haula a lot too.

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    On 12/24/2023 at 9:11 AM, mnfaninnc said:

    Out of all of the major sports, I'd say St. Paul fits the lifestyle of hockey players better than all the other sports. Therefore, we should have players wanting to stay.

    I can assure you don’t speak for a large amount of NHL hockey players.

    Mn is one of the highest taxed states.

    theres a huge amount of young and talented hockey players that want to live in a big city/big market team. 
    players want to win and win a Cup. They aren’t stupid and they know which teams have the best chances of winning.

    id argue that Mn is where talented but over the hill players that have families want to come to basically finish their hockey career.

    players don’t want to come to a team that’s stuck in mediocrity.

    sure the Wild have some good prospects coming but none of them are projected to be superstars like Bedard for instance.

    I also think you vastly underestimate how many players would love to play in an area with a nice and warm climate.

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    On 12/26/2023 at 4:21 PM, Mateo3xm said:

    Mn is one of the highest taxed states.

    Mateo, you may indeed be right. The guys I was thinking about were the European players, Swedes, Finns and even Russians, as well as the small town boys from rural Canada. I also made a terrible assumption that these players had families and I do have large city bias against them. 

    But there are plenty of players who grow up in suburban or urban areas too that like that lifestyle. Typically, I consider the state taxes in draw. I thought the MN state taxes were decent, of course, not like Nashville, Vegas, or the Florida and Texas teams, but at least competitive with your Chicagos, New Yorks, Torontos, and CA teams. 

    If you look at Kaprizov, he has been well shielded from the media here, and from a lot of high profile appearances. That would not be the case for him if he were in New York or LA. He seems like he wants to stay out of the public eye probably because he has little confidence in his English and does not like to be embarrassed. 

    But I can certainly see your point(s), they are pretty solid. 

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    Im willing to bet that if MN was able to dangle 15 million dollars worth of salary  we could have had 80-85 % of players willing to come here if it was up to them ,   And  why would you want to play in a time zone where everyone else in the world is in bed  .   theres alot more of a national audience playing in MN at 8-10  than in LA 10-12  .     but i do get the LA / Hollywood nightlife thing is something  no one else has  ,  

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