2020-21 Team: Djurgårdens IF (#71)
Date of Birth: Oct. 12, 2002
Place of Birth: Haninge, Sweden
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 172 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
NHL Central Scouting: 1st (amongst EU skaters)
The Hockey Writers (Zator): 3rd
The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 4th
The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 3rd
Dobber Prospects: 2nd
Craig Button, TSN: 6th
Bob McKenzie, TSN: 7th
Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet: 7th
Possibly one of the hardest-working players in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, William Eklund’s size hasn’t really come into question when scouts have talked about his game. In fact, his work ethic might be the most telling part of his game. Sure, he’s smaller, but the effort put forth combined with his hockey IQ makes him one of the more dangerous players in the game which could be why some have him ranked first overall ahead of Owen Power and Matthew Beniers.
He’s an offensive threat whenever he touches the puck and his ability to open the ice for other players makes him that much tougher to play against as an opposing player. He sees the ice like few others and his ability to control the puck allows him to enter the offensive zone and exit his own end with control – developing plays at both ends of the ice.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
While some of them questioned his first step and explosiveness, his top speed kind of cancels out that conversation. He’s not strictly a shooter, nor is he a pass-first player, but he has the ability to chip in offensively in either sense depending on what opportunities present themselves.
In 40 games with Djurgårdens IF last season, he posted 11 goals and 23 points playing amongst men. And while he is a smaller player, his size doesn’t always dictate his physical play. In fact, he’s not afraid to get in the corners and battle for the puck which is a testament to how hard he works.
There is a very good chance that Eklund could go first overall, but either way, don’t expect him to fall any further than third in the draft.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
William Eklund – NHL Draft Projection
It’s not out of the question that we could see Eklund taken first overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Conversations have swirled surrounding the Swedish prospect and how he may fit in nicely with the Sabres’ desperate offence. Still, if he doesn’t land in that top spot, he should land amongst the top five picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. Even suggesting his name among the top three isn’t a stretch.
“Eklund played a big role on Djurgarden, contributing offensively and competed consistently with his skills and attributes as both playmaker and scorer…he always plays with a will to win. During the 2020-21 season he continued to display his high level of play, athleticism and character despite setbacks from an emergency appendectomy, a positive COVID-19 test that prevented him from representing his country at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and an injury during an exhibition game that prevented him from participating at the IIHF World Championship.” – Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting
“William is a good skater, can move the puck, make plays. He has an OK shot but can play center or wing. He’s strong on the puck, good at the boards and can carry the puck. What I like most is his work ethic; he’ll always go full speed. He’ll block shots with his head if he had to, so you can use him in a top-six role, the fourth line, penalty kill and the power play.” – Tomas Monten, Sweden National Junior Team Coach
“He’s not an explosive skater from a straight-line standpoint, but you’ll mark Eklund in open ice several times a period, let alone through the game. He’ll use stutter steps, quick shoulder drops, or spin moves to gain the inside edge, and more times than not he’s beating that defender to the inside post.” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“A very smart player who also works very hard and opens up the play for his teammates.” – Magnus Hävelid, Head Coach
- Work ethic
- Hockey IQ
- Puck control
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
While size has become a distant conversation in the NHL, Eklund is smaller and it can come into play sometimes when talking about the physical side of his game. He doesn’t shy away from battles along the boards, but it can still play into his overall game. Aside from that, his first step when getting into his stride isn’t the best. His top speed is much more what you’d expect from a top-five pick, but his explosiveness is questionable at times.
Eklund has already stated that he’ll be heading back to Sweden for another year of development. That could play into favour for any team that drafts the small forward. The more developed he is coming over, the better chance that he’ll be able to step right into a top-six role he’s expected to at some point in his career. He’s a consistent and hard-working player, it shouldn’t be out of the question to see him put up 60-70 points very early in his NHL career when he does make the jump.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8/10, Defence – 7/10
It’s safe to say that he starting a winning culture young – winning medals at the U16 SM, the J18 SM and J20 SM in Sweden. That included two golds and a bronze. In 2019-20, Eklund was part of the bronze-medal winning Swedish team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and last season he finished with the most goals by a junior player in the SHL, he was named the rookie of the year in the SHL and named Swedish junior player of the year.
William Eklund Statistics
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.