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  • Joel Eriksson Ek & Worry/Excitement for the Future


    I want to talk about Joel Eriksson Ek. He is incredibly young. He’s nineteen. I could give examples of the terrible choices I was making with my life at nineteen, but I’m still not over the embarrassment. He’s the same age as my girlfriend’s baby brother, which means he is basically just a child, and needs someone to worry about what’s best for him.

    Fortunately, I am here to help. Worrying about people who I don’t know is one of my specialties, along with worrying about the people I love, and worrying about the state of the world in general. Any kind of worrying you’ve got, I’m your girl. For this article I’m going to try to focus on worrying about Joel Eriksson Ek’s immediate future with the Minnesota Wild. I also worry if he’s eating enough vegetables, if someone’s teaching him about consent and not being a gross teenage boy, if he’s getting enough sleep, if he’s actually okay with getting teased about his name or if he’s just going along with it because he’s very young and wants people to like him. I worry a lot. This article does not have room for all of my worries. That would be exhausting. So we’re just going to worry about what’s best for Joel Eriksson Ek and the Wild this year.

    There are basically three options for what the Wild do with Eriksson Ek this year:

    They don’t have to decide right now, but I’m sure it’s something Fletcher et al. are giving a lot of thought to. Tonight will be game four of nine. The forty game cutoff is a lot further off, but something to keep in mind. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to burn a year of the contract you might as well really go for it, and keep the player for the season, but I’m a worrywort English major who blogs, not a hockey executive, thank god. I don’t have to make these sorts of decisions, I just get to say whether I think they’re smart or not.

    So far Eriksson Ek has played three games, and been very impressive. He scored a goal in his first AHL game, and a goal in his first NHL game. He had three assists in his third NHL game, which is super cool. He is a cool kid.

    Four points in three games is incredibly impressive, but we shouldn’t expect him to continue scoring at this rate. Eriksson Ek has the second highest on ice shooting percentage on the team, at 23.5%, just below Jason Zucker. Their line had a real good night in Boston. Everything went in the net. That won’t keep happening. For comparison, Erik Haula had the highest on ice shooting percentage for the Wild last year, just below 11%, and he was towards the top of the league. So obviously, ~25% isn’t going to last. Three games doesn’t give us a lot to draw on statistically. Nine games won’t give us a whole lot to draw on statistically.

    So what have we seen? He’s played well. He’s made good choices. He’s played a very mature game. I like it. I’d like to see more.

    Watching Eriksson Ek play in the last three games has made me feel good about the future. It’s made me optimistic and excited. But should the future start now, or next year? Do we want ten minutes of the future every night, or should the future play for Sweden in the WJC, and play the rest of the season with Färjestad? What’s to be gained from putting the future off for another year?

    Next year he’ll be a year older, and presumably better and stronger and more prepared to play in the NHL. Next year he will be more grown up, and the idea is that getting older helps us makes better choices, though I suspect that to be a lie. Even if that’s all true, and he’ll have a lot more to contribute as a twenty year old next year, does that mean the Wild are better off waiting instead of keeping him as a nineteen year old?

    If everyone’s healthy, Eriksson Ek would be the fourth line center. That wouldn’t be a ton of minutes, but it would be something. I haven’t hated Dalpe this year, but I feel confident that Eriksson Ek is already better, and should improve as the year wears on. And not everyone is going to be healthy. We’ve already seen this with Haula’s injury. Eriksson Ek being able to step into the lineup has made it relatively easy for the Wild to continue to roll four lines that are theoretically effective, that theoretically could score. I like that.

    Graovac could probably play, but he didn’t impress Boudreau during the preseason. Past him there isn’t a lot in Iowa. As in, I can’t think of another center they’d want to call up. Maybe there’s someone I’m forgetting about, but the fact that they’re forgettable says a lot. It would be great if an injury to a center doesn’t require moving Coyle or Granlund off the wing. Depth is good and fun. Depth is comforting and reassuring.

    Having a fourth line that doesn’t half-suck sounds novel and beautiful. Having a fourth line with a shiny new rookie sounds exciting. There will be rookie mistakes, but rookie mistakes are part of the process, something the Wild have to live with at some point, and the possible upside seems worth it.

    I’m willing to wait and see what happens, but I’d like to see the Wild keep Eriksson Ek for the year. This team is mostly made up of known quantities. Eriksson Ek could surprise us, and I think that sounds fun. I want to see what happens. Also, it’s much more convenient to worry about this child if he’s in Minnesota, and on my television screen instead off in Sweden. Let’s make it easier to worry about things, because that’s not a terrible idea at all.


    Stats from puckalytics


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