As the 2021 NHL Draft is a month away, Octopus Thrower will be looking at many of the picks Detroit Red Wings General Manger Steve Yzerman could take at the sixth spot. We are analyzing this beyond just the player and asking the question of why the player would fit the Yzerplan scheme.
As such, Swedish winger William Eklund seems to be a fantastic candidate for the organization if available at six.
Eklund already has one and a half years of experience playing in a pro league, developing with Djurgardens over in the Swedish Hockey league. In his first full season, he managed to average over half a point per game, netting 11 goals and 12 assists in 40 games.
Eklund illustrated his elite ability as a playmaker this season. Although his shot isn’t anything special, he posses an elite passing ability. Eklund’s highlights are chock-full of passes so quick, that you’ll have to rewind the tape to make sure you saw it right. He’ll snap the puck tape-to-tape to a teammate while barreling ahead at full speed, fooling nearly every defender in the process.
The problem for defenders? If you worry about the passes, he’ll fool you with patience and deceptively good hands.
One of Eklund’s more underrated skills is his abilities as a two-way forward He doesn’t make mistakes in the defensive zone often, and if an opposing team makes a mistake or turns it over in the offensive zone, Eklund will be right there to punish them. He’s excellent in transition, quickly returning the team to the attack after gaining possession in his own zone.
With excellence in hockey IQ, playmaking ability and the two-way game, many project Eklund as a center in the NHL. He’s already proven himself as a more than capable winger in the pros; with more development, he could very well make the transition.
However, if he is going to make that sort of leap, there are flaws in his game that need ironed out. Eklund is a good skater, but he doesn’t quite have NHL level speed yet. The ability to burst through defenders won’t happen in the NHL if he’s doesn’t get faster.
He’s also less than stellar in the faceoff circle, but to be fair, that’s not something he’s been tasked to excel at with Djurgardens. Lastly, Eklund’s shot needs just some work. He’s already shown flashes of some sniping skills, especially when he’s within feet of the net. But to give defenders a tough time in the best league in the world, Eklund will have to show an ability to score from other parts of the ice.
Why Yzerman Picks Eklund
The William Eklund pick just makes way too much sense. Detroit has always been an organization with elite European scouting, and Eklund might be the best European winger in the draft. He’s also developed in familiar territory for the Red Wings: the SHL. Yzerman has shown a proclivity to have his prospects develop in Sweden; nearly all of the organizations top prospects played in the SHL this year (Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, Jonatan Berggren, Joe Veleno, Albert Johansson, etc).
Eklund’s style of play also fits the Yzerplan. He’s already a bit of a two-way player, and scouts say his work ethic and desire to improve are among the best in the draft. Like last years pick, Lucas Raymond, Eklund has a high ceiling as a playmaker: elite passing and high-end puck skills. It’s even better if he can transition to a center in the NHL: the Red Wings desperately need talent and depth at the position.
If you’re looking for a relatively safe bet for Detroit’s pick this year, Eklund may be the best option. Though it’s tough to get a read on Yzerman, if there’s one player that just seems to fit the organizational philosophy, it’s William Eklund.