The Minnesota Wild’s third line was the earliest to earn their identity in 2021-22 and was quickly nicknamed the “GREEF” line. The first member of that line to receive their grade is the “EE” part of that name, Joel Eriksson Ek, also known as “Ekker”. As the center, he was an integral part of that line and the glue in the middle that made everything flow.
Eriksson Ek missed a total of five games throughout the season, all in one spree for two reasons, the first due to an injury, and then as soon as he was able to return, he was hit with COVID Protocol and was out again, forcing him to miss out on one of the biggest games of the year, the Winter Classic. However, his season was great, as he, like many of his teammates, set new career-highs in nearly every category on the stat sheet.
Eriksson Ek Example of Consistency
Eriksson Ek may not have had any extended scoring streaks like some of his teammates but his play was always consistently strong. He played in 77 games for the Wild and scored 26 goals and 23 assists for 49 points, one shy of the big 50. All three of those areas were career-highs for him, the biggest impact being points. His previous career-high was 30 from last season and he blew by that with nearly 20 points more.
He was relatively up and down when it came to recording them, though, as he’d score a couple and then be silent for a couple of games. However, he always seemed to score the big points when needed, an example was their third game of the season when they took on the Winnipeg Jets. Eriksson Ek had a hat trick in their big 6-5 overtime win that was in the middle of a four-game winning streak.
Of course, when Eriksson Ek’s name is mentioned, his defensive stats have to be looked at too. The last couple of seasons it seemed like he would get snubbed for the Selke Trophy that goes to the forward who consistently plays a defensive game, something that he’s known for throughout the league, but often gets overlooked when award season comes around.
Eriksson Ek was eighth on the team for blocked shots with 44 and was the second-highest shot-blocking forward on the Wild, right behind Ryan Hartman who had 48. He also had 30 takeaways throughout the season that placed him sixth on the team. His defensive game will definitely be a part of his final grade and the Wild were lucky to have that aspect throughout the season.
Eriksson Ek Had a Strong Postseason
Not many of his teammates had great postseason results but Eriksson Ek was one of the few that did, as he was strong throughout the playoffs. He was just a few points behind Wild scoring leader Kirill Kaprizov and ended up with five points. He scored three goals and two assists for those five points, two of those goals coming in their Game 2 win where he looked the strongest.
Eriksson Ek’s points came quick, as in Game 3 he had two more, a goal, and an assist. Unfortunately for himself and his team, that was the end of his point streak. If things had gone in their favor, five points in two games is quite impressive but were overlooked due to their elimination in Game 6. He still managed at least three shots per game, he just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Looking into the defensive side of things, he wasn’t as high on the chart when it came to blocked shots with just two, but he was second on the team in hits with 16. While his offensive stats were decent, his defensive stats slumped a bit. However, there were many things Eriksson Ek did away from the puck that mattered just as much, even if they didn’t make it onto the stat sheet. His confidence and work ethic were something the entire team could strive for.
Eriksson Ek’s Final Grade
Eriksson Ek is another player that was rather difficult to grade because he did so much away from the puck that doesn’t show up anywhere on the scoresheet. He was part of a line that created a lot of energy for his team, and while he tried during the postseason, they couldn’t reach that final step. He set career-highs in the regular season and was a consistent presence and an important piece of the chemistry of this team.
While the playoffs had a dismal ending that everyone hoped would be better, Eriksson Ek’s performance was overshadowed by the losses. Overall, he earned an A-. Yes, that’s the same as Kaprizov, as his regular season was strong and he did well offensively in the postseason. He had to be docked slightly for the defensive lapses, but he’s part of a team, so the blame can’t fall solely on him.
The Wild are lucky to have Eriksson Ek locked up for some time as he’s just started to reach his potential and it looks as though there’s a lot more talent to come. He’s seen what he can do and he’s proven he can push himself to that next step. It’ll be fun to see what he can do next season, where he will hopefully set more career-highs and lead his team further in the playoffs.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.