Nation Network Prospect Profiles: #26 Joel Eriksson Ek

joelekeriksson

Photo Courtesy: @Sarah_Hobday

Back again on the other side of Atlantic, we are taking a
look at the young centre Joel Eriksson Ek who has played a large amount of
times in leagues senior to his age and has succeeded.  He appears he will likely be selected in the
late first round, with potential to slip into the second but his talent level
appears to suggest a top-6 centre.  For a
later pick, Eriksson Ek is someone you should not pass on.

Continue past the jump for our qualitative and quantitative analysis.

Bio:

  • Age:  17.62 (as of
    September 15th, 2014).  Born January
    29th, 1997
  • Birthplace: Karlstad, SWE
  • Position: Centre
  • Frame: 6’1.75” – 180 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Farjestad (SHL)
  • Accomplishments: 2014-15 J18 Allsvenskan Best Forward, J20
    SuperElit (South) Most Goals, SHL Most Points by U18 Junior, 2013-14 J20 SM
    Silver Medal, 2012-13 U16 SM Best Plus/Minus, Gold Medal, Most Points

Stats:

PCS% 2014 PCS Pts/82 2014 PCS% 2015 PCS Pts/82 2015
3.07% 21 22.00% 43
PCS Most NHL GP PCS Highest Pts/GP
Milan Hejduk Milan Hejduk
Tuomo Ruutu Mikko Koivu
Milan Michalek Alexander Steen
NHL CSS ISS FutureConsiderations HockeyProspect Pronman McKeen’s TSN
4 (EU) 20 23 15 44 16 23

From Hockey
Prospectus’ Dennis Schellenberg
:

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)
It’s hard to find flaws in his game but if you want to name one, skating would be an often mentioned word. He isn’t known for great speed and his acceleration still has room for improvement. But he showed progress in both areas through the course of the year and he already possesses a good balance on his skates.
Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)
Eriksson Ek’s shot is very powerful and accurate, especially his wrist shot which is a good weapon. He likes to shoot from all angles and positions himself in front of the net to deflect the puck.
Puck Skills
He might not be the best puckhandler and shows some puck control issues when carrying the puck at full speed. But this is nitpicking as he usually protects the puck very well and makes it extremely hard for the defenders to knock him off the puck.
Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)
Joel is very competitive in all three zones. He shows great defensive responsibility and isn’t afraid to back check deep in his own zone to create turnovers and take away the puck from the opponent. Offensively he drives the net hard and makes life hard for each defender. Likes to get his nose dirty and does all for the win in each shift.
Physicality
He is a gritty forward who has good size and powerful legs, which he uses very well to win corner battles, is hard to knock off the puck and drives the net with a lot of power and willingness. He is a “in the face player” who tries to gets under the skin of opponents in every shift and is present during after whistle scrums.
General Assessment
Big two-way center who works very hard in all three zones and has great work ethic. Together with his good shot and decent scoring skills he shows a good competitive level and willingness to do everything for the win. He might not have the high-end scoring skills to center a first line but can be a very effective player on 2nd or 3rd line. He played in over 30 games this season in the highest Swedish league and is fitting into a North American style of game. With Datsyuk and Zetterberg getting older, Detroit might have a very close look on him. Expect him to be drafted in the back end of the first round, making him a Tier III draft prospect.

From TSN’s Craig 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 Draft Site’s
Bill Placzek
:

Strong competing centre who plays solid in all zones. A
player who at an earlier juncture projected as a low-end roster player who is
strong in the dot and very responsible defensively. He is smart and comes to
win every night. It isn’t like he is a deft speedster;but he most certainly
continues to improve his feet and continue on the uptick as a smart
strong-on-the-puck player who reads the situations and knows when to continue
carrying and when to find the teammate with a pass. He needs more strength but
is strong in traffic and creates space on the attack. He supports well
defensively and always instinctively position himself well. He will continue to
fill his gangly body out and get even stronger than he already is. There are
glimpses of strong offensive instincts that may flourish as he fills out
physically. Already creates space and excels in the dot.A long term player who
some team will take a chance on.

From Elite Prospect’s,
Curtis Joe
:

A very competitive center who uses his size, skill, and
skating to power to the net and create scoring chances. Possesses an
elite-level shot, great vision, and slick puckhandling skills; as a result,
it’s no surprise that he has a natural knack for scoring big goals. Offensive
catalyst, but also defensively responsible. Plays a creative, 200-foot game.
All-in-all, an intelligent, scoring center that is productive at both ends of
the ice.

Our Take:

Joel Eriksson Ek has a long resume of success in leagues
where he has been playing up an age. 
When he was 15 he was playing in the J18 Elit and J18 Allsvenskan leagues
scoring 5 points in 18 games.  When he was
16 he scored 4 points in 13 games in the SuperElit and even spent a large
portion of the last season in the Senior SHL where he scored 6 points in 34
games.

Those point totals may not seem much but as we
know, being able to play in a senior league, to be able to hold a roster spotfor such a long time and to be able to produce some points, all suggest youhave a high likelihood of success in the NHL.

The SHL is featuring a unique situation where they have been
diluted this year with their top talent playing outside the country.  This has allowed more rookie players to play
than normal.  Eriksson Ek might be
benefiting from this exposure, which is not hurting his development.  Eriksson Ek is not receiving a lot of playing
time as he is playing an average of 8:54 a game with limited special teams
time.  His fourth line minutes are good
for 34th amongst all rookies while his Points/60 rating of 1.19 is
goog for 20th of all rookies with a minimum of 10 gp. 

A few other notable rookies are producing better than
Eriksson Ek is including Jens Looke (1.25) and Oliver Kylington (1.41).  The current junior leaders are William
Nylander (2.99) and Kevin Fiala (2.61) – both players the Canucks passed on in
last year’s draft.

It seems like nearly ever scout thinks similar of Eriksson
Ek.  He has good skating, physical play,
hockey IQ and puck skills.  He still
needs to improve in a few small areas but it is not of major concern, or
something that can’t be fixed with a coach and practice. 

Almost all of the scouts have Eriksson Ek ranked as a late
first round pick with the biggest dissenter coming from Corey Pronman.  Pronman thinks his IQ is best and that he is
a low-risk prospect while describing him as follows:

… 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. His puck skills are solid, and his skating is about average, with his
straight-line speed being stronger than his edges and bursts.

Rhys also didn’t like Eriksson Ek much, previously writing:

Despite a glowing report from EliteProspects, it doesn’t sound as if Eriksson Ek’s offensive ceiling is that high, and PCS doesn’t exactly like him either. In terms of comparables, Alex Steen and former Florida Panther/Calgary Flame Marcus Nilson are there, but there’s really no one else. A lot of the buzz around Eriksson Ek seems to stem from a very strong World U-18 tournament in which he led the disappointing Swedes with 5G 1A in 5G, and we all know that evaluating a player on a 5-game sample is foolish at best, so he seems like a bit of a reach at 23rd especially given the other players that should be on the board at the time.
This isn’t to say that Eriksson Ek isn’t a good prospect, but based on the guys that have done what he has in Sweden at his age, you’re reasonably looking for a player that can contribute quality third line minutes on a good team if you draft him.

The biggest knocks against him is that his skating could use
improvement while he needs to fill out his large frame.  That being said his fitness levels were one
of the best in this draft class coming 4th in the aerobic fitness
test and top-5 in VO2 max in the combine. 
It seems like the biggest “issue” is that he has not done enough to
stand out.

With that being said his PCS numbers suggest some very high
end players that Eriksson Ek is most similar to.  Eriksson Ek could potentially develop into a top-6
forward with a possible but unlikely 1C ceiling.  I am
honestly surprised he is ranked as low as he has been – it only goes to show
the strength of some of the upcoming prospects.