The Edmonton Oilers turned heads on Feb. 28 by acquiring veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm to bolster their blue line for a lengthy playoff run. The versatile blueliner can play either the left or right side, plays a physical game and fills the team’s need for someone who is strong along the boards. At the same time, he’s a strong skater that moves the puck well in transition and the hope is that he’ll be able to stabilize the Oilers’ defensive corps over the next few seasons.
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Edmonton gave up a lot to acquire the impact defenceman, and with the strong skating Swede signed until the 2025-26 season, Oilers fans should get acquainted with him. Now, let’s dive into four interesting tidbits about Ekholm, the Oilers’ newest defenceman.
Ekholm Won the Borje Salming Trophy for Top Swedish Defenceman
Ekholm was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round in 2009, but he didn’t suit up in his first game for the Predators until 2011. That year, he played only two NHL games before he was reassigned to Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
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Later that season, Ekholm won the Borje Salming Trophy, which is awarded annually to the best Swedish-born defenceman in the SHL, as selected by the late Salming himself. He recorded nine goals and eight assists in 48 games to take the top honours as the best Swedish blueliner and topped off his incredible season by winning a championship with Brynas. Hopefully, history repeats itself for the Oilers, because Ekholm also led all defencemen in postseason points with eight assists. Due to his incredible run with Brynas, he was ranked No. 5 on Bleacher Report’s top 25 players in the world not playing in the NHL in 2012.
Ekholm Was Known for His Great Charity Work in Nashville
Ekholm is not only a standout defenceman, but he was active in the community when he was a Predator. Through his work with various charitable organizations, the newest Oiler has made a significant impact in Nashville and beyond.
He was a longtime supporter of the Nashville Predators’ Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, which raises awareness and funds for cancer research and patient care. Ekholm visited children’s hospitals, spending time with patients and their families and signing autographs. His most notable involvement was with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where he hosted a charity youth hockey clinic, with all the proceeds going to the charity.
The Oilers’ defenceman spoke about his willingness to help in the community, saying, “I’m fortunate enough to be in this position to play a game that I love and to give them the opportunity to do something that they care about is amazing… Every hockey player wants to give back and it’s a great way to do it.” In saying that, it seems the Oilers not only acquired a star on the ice but off the ice as well.
Ekholm Won Medals With Team Sweden on Several Occasions
Ekholm suited up for his country, Sweden, on numerous occasions in international competitions and represented his nation in several major tournaments. He won a gold medal as a teenager at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in 2008 and in 2010, helped Sweden win a hard-earned bronze medal at the World Junior Championship, and tied for the tournament lead with a plus-10 plus/minus rating.
He’s represented his country at the senior level as well, playing at the World Hockey Championship on five occasions, winning a gold and bronze medal. Also, many felt he had an outside shot to make Team Sweden at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and ended up beating out fellow countrymen and defencemen John Klingberg and Hampus Lindholm for the final spot on the defensive corps and helped his nation capture a bronze medal.
Ekholm Only Started Playing Defence at 14 Years Old
Ekholm is widely regarded for his defensive abilities from the back end, but a fun fact about the newest Oiler is that he played forward until he was 14 years old with his team in Mora, Sweden, looking up to Swedish forwards like Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin. He spoke about the transition to the blue line:
“To be honest, I was a forward until I was 14. Usually, you start with your position and you stick with it. I was a forward and our minor-league team was running out of D-men, so the coach that we just got — which today is my best friend’s dad — just tried me and another guy. It was just going to be a game, but then it was two games and then it was five games and I just stuck with it. I really enjoyed the position. After that, it’s been a journey with no real ending at all. It’s a funny note when you look back at it.”
– Mattias Ekholm (From “Who is Mattias Ekholm? Nashville Predators Defenceman Sheds ‘Underrated’ Tag With Breakout Playoffs,” The National Post, 5/17/17.
Ekholm also revealed that he felt his coach when he was younger asked him to play defence because he was not particularly strong at scoring goals, but possessed exceptional skating abilities. Despite being told that this was a temporary move, it ultimately became permanent, which helped to shape his successful career as a defenceman in the NHL.
In joining the Oilers, Ekholm has the opportunity to help solidify their blue line and if he continues to perform at the high level that he’s shown throughout his career, his contributions could be the missing piece that helps the Oilers achieve their ultimate goal of bringing back the Stanley Cup to Oil Country.
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