In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, management made the difficult decision to send William Eklund back to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. In other news, 23-year-old Jonathan Dahlen, who the Sharks acquired in a trade back in 2019, has been a very pleasant surprise through his first 10 NHL games. Meanwhile, the Sharks roster will soon get back to normal, as several players have been, or are close, to being activated from the COVID-19 protocol list.
When the Sharks drafted Eklund seventh overall in this year’s draft, most expected him to be at least a few years away from making an impact at the NHL level. However, a strong training camp gave him the opportunity to make his NHL debut this season, and he played well enough in nine games that management considered keeping him with the team for the rest of the season. However, they believed it was best if he was given a little bit more time to continue developing before becoming an NHL regular. (from ‘Kevin Kurz: Doug Wilson Jr.: Sharks reassign William Eklund to ‘develop him into a potential difference-maker’, The Athletic 11/06/21).
“I would say even strength, both watching it and the underlying metrics said that an 82-game season might have been a little much for him at that age,” Sharks scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. said. “And I think that’s the biggest thing – even-strength play, consistency through 82 games is a big thing, but honestly, he would have had to do a lot to have stayed for the full season because historically we try and have our players develop as long as possible so they’re in spots to succeed when they actually do some here.”
“I think at the end of the day, when you draft that high, you’re looking for difference-makers. You’re not looking for contributors. I just think it would have been a tough conversation at the end of the season (if) we look back on it and William Eklund has seven goals and is a power-play specialist. I don’t think that would have been right for the kid, and I don’t think that would have been right for the Sharks. We just want to keep him on the same play we’ve always had, which is player development and what’s best for William.”
While many fans were upset with the decision, it is likely the right one for the Sharks. Despite the solid start to the season, they aren’t a team that has a ton of expectations in 2021-22. It is better to allow Eklund to return to the SHL and further develop than risk rushing him and hurting his development as a prospect. This decision will only make him better in the long run.
Dahlen Trade Looking Like a Major Steal
In late February of 2019, the Sharks made what at the time seemed like a solid trade with the Vancouver Canucks, moving prospect Linus Karlsson in exchange for Dahlen. It was confirmed soon afterward that the Canucks made the move because Dahlen had asked for a trade due to being unhappy with his role in the organization. To this point, making the move to acquire him looks like the right one for the Sharks.
Through 11 games thus far in the 2021-22 season, which are the first 11 of his career, he has an impressive six goals and eight points. The great start to the season earned him a spot on the team’s top line that is centered by Logan Couture. It was clear from his numbers in past seasons in Sweden that he had a ton of talent, and so far, he has had little to no problems showcasing that talent at the NHL level.
Sharks Getting Healthy
The Sharks have had a tough go as of late due to numerous players being on the COVID-19 protocol list. Currently, they are without Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Matt Nieto, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Radim Simek, though they were all able to practice on Monday and are expected to play Friday night versus the Colorado Avalanche. (from ‘Curtis Pashelka: With San Jose Sharks’ COVID issues likely over soon, roster decisions loom’ , The Mercury News 11/09/21).
Two other players on the list, Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton, were not on the ice Monday but are reportedly headed in the right direction and should be activated off the list sooner than later. The timing of all this couldn’t have been more frustrating for the Sharks, who had gotten off to a very solid start this season. Thankfully, the very shorthanded roster was able to do okay considering the circumstances, picking up three points in three games last week. They also walked away with a 4-1 win on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
Up Next for the Sharks
The Sharks are back at it versus the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. They then end their week with a game on Saturday against the struggling Colorado Avalanche. They will look to keep the good times rolling, as through 12 games, they have an impressive 7-4-1 record, which is good enough for the top wild-card spot at the moment. Not many expected this prior to the beginning of the season, but this team is firing on all cylinders right now.
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Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.