The Minnesota Wild are looking for a spark for a team that has limped through March. According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Wild are bringing back Joel Eriksson Ek. Head coach Bruce Boudreau also confirmed this on Tuesday in an interview. He said that he doesn’t know if they plan on playing him in Iowa or with the Wild.
One would like to think he’s coming in to help the big club in Minnesota. The Wild are 3-10-1 in the month of March and currently sit just six points ahead of Nashville in the second division spot. They’re in desperate need of a change and the 20-year-old kid from Sweden could be just what the Wild need.
Boudreau confirms Eriksson Ek is coming to North America. Doesn't know yet if plan is to start him in Iowa or #mnwild
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 28, 2017
Return of the Swede
If he returns to Minnesota, it will be the first time since October that Eriksson Ek has played for the Wild. He started out the season with the team, scoring two goals and five points with a plus-2 rating in nine games. Shortly after being sent down to Iowa, he returned to his team in Sweden where he scored eight goals and 16 points in just 25 games.
Eriksson Ek also Captained Sweden’s U20 team in the World Junior Championship, where he played incredibly well. He finished as one of the top scorers in the tournament and led Sweden with six goals and nine points in seven games. He’s shown why he’s considered one of Minnesota’s top prospects and is incredibly mature, despite his young age. I like to think of him as a better version of Mikko Koivu.
Wild Looking for a Spark
Besides Eric Staal’s nine goals in March, the entire Minnesota forward group has gone into a slump. Nino Niederreiter has one goal in his past 20 games. Mikko Koivu has two goals in his past 24 games. Jason Pominville has one goal in his past 20 games. Jason Zucker, who looked poised to easily hit the 30-goal mark this year, has just one goal in his last 14 contests. Charlie Coyle, who has had a disappointing year, has just four goals in his past 37 games. The Wild’s offense is in a slump, so bringing in Eriksson Ek to ignite the team could rejuvenate the Wild.
If you watch Eriksson Ek’s first nine games in the NHL, you notice right away how calm he is with the puck. He has the ability to create offense with his skating and shooting ability. He has great size at six-foot-two and over 200 pounds. His size enables him to get down low into the dirty areas and create offense.
Eriksson Ek Here to Stay
Once Eriksson Ek plays his 10th NHL game, he’ll have burned up the first year of his contract. This shows me that the Wild brass is probably keeping him at the NHL level full-time. He’s had time to develop and as a result has proven he can contribute at this level. This is also a risky move by Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher and could potentially blow up in his face. Bringing up a prospect too early has proven fatal in the past and as a result can stunt a player’s growth. Fletcher’s showing confidence in Eriksson Ek’s ability to be willing to bring him back this late in the season. Not to mention using the first year of his three-year deal to play less than 20 regular season games.
I think it’s a smart move by the Wild. He has the talent and poise to be successful and will hopefully get this team heading in the right direction. In addition, Eriksson Ek is a center, a position that is aging for the Wild. Mikko Koivu will be 36 when his contract expires and Eric Staal will be 35. There have been talks of an extension for Koivu, but I don’t believe that scenario is likely. Getting Eriksson Ek playing time now may benefit the Wild in the near future as he could be the one to fill Koivu’s skates down the road.