William Eklund is clearly head and shoulders above the other first round European prospects.
Playing in the SHL full time this past season (he played 20 SHL games in 2019-20), Eklund outpaced 2020 first round picks Alexander Holtz (who is also his teammate, and in fact, linemate) and Lucas Raymond, and delivered a solid postseason performance. Many consider Eklund to be the most skilled forward in terms of raw ability in the draft, and given my personal propensity to favor European prospects from men’s leagues, I would have to agree.
BSH 2021 Community Draft Board, No. 5: William Eklund
Team: Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
Statistics: 11 G, 12 A in 40 GP
No. 1 (European skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 3 by Future Considerations
No. 2 by Dobber Prospects
No. 7 by TSN
What’s there to like?
He makes plays like this fairly routinely:
I have a feeling I may become a huge William Eklund fan... pic.twitter.com/giymLK61Wb— NHL Prospects (@NHLPC) November 2, 2020
Just a ridiculously skilled play by William Eklund (2021) to fake the one timer and complete a no-look touch pass between his legs for the assist in yesterday's game. pic.twitter.com/74OIZV9VGJ— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) January 28, 2021
His overall best qualities are that regardless of the situation he is placed in, he can use his next level hockey intelligence to have complete control over play. You rarely see Eklund make silly, thoughtless mistakes on the puck because he’s always reading and observing how play develops. When you combine this next level situational awareness with good skating ability, evasiveness, borderline elite hands, a hard accurate shot, and solid playmaking, you have a scary prospect who is already demonstrating he is ready to play against men in the NHL.
Eklund isn’t a speedster, but his skating is above average. Where he stands out with his skating is in his agility and evasiveness. His ability to weave in and out of defenders (when combined with his insane hands) will leave defensemen wanting to play him conservatively, which is a recipe for disaster if you’re the defending team.
Where Eklund truly excels is in his ability on the puck. There truly isn’t any scenario nor space on the ice where Eklund isn’t dangerous from, and he can beat goaltenders with a slap-shot from range just as easily as he can dangle in-close.
Not only is his shot simply really good, but Eklund always keeps his feet moving and probes around dangerous areas of the offensive zone, and isn’t afraid to use behind the net and around the boards.
Eklund is also a very creative passer, and he becomes effective due to how quickly he moves the puck.
All of these offensive skills and hockey sense lend well to Eklund’s game in transition as well, and why he may not be a prototypical “two way forward” in terms of defensive contribution, he is responsible defensively and his best attribute in this regard is how he can help break the puck out and aid in transition.
This is a pretty ridiculous sequence by William Eklund. First he identifies the pass out of the near corner and times his activation -- clears the puck. Then supports the transition, executes inside-outside move on the entry, and finds Holtz through layering. #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/bVdPDMSMXb— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) May 13, 2021
What’s not to like?
Eklund is pretty fast, but he isn’t a burner by any stretch, nor is he an explosive skater. You won’t see him challenging the likes of Connor McDavid and Mat Barzal in this regard. Otherwise, there aren’t many holes in Eklund’s game if any. If you’re looking for a pure two-way forward, Eklund probably isn’t the ideal pick, but he’s good enough defensively, and his pure skill on the puck should persuade any team to pick him.
Even as a younger player, Eklund’s strength hasn’t been an issue for him. He isn’t the heaviest, but he is certainly strong and isn’t afraid to be physical, especially on the forecheck.
We truly have an NHL ready forward on our hands with Eklund.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
For a Flyers team that needs all the offensive help it can get, Eklund would pair nicely with forwards such as Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton in the bottom six to start his career. Eklund would add skill to the Flyers’ depth chart, and his willingness to be aggressive on the forecheck and mix it up in the fray will compliment their style of play.
Sure, the Flyers have plenty of young talent in the mix, from Joel Farabee and Wade Allison, to Morgan Frost and Nic Aube-Kubel, but Eklund could easily be the most skilled forward out of them all in the end.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
The Flyers likely won’t have a shot at Eklund with the 13th overall pick. Most outlets have Eklund going within the top ten, even some (rightly so) within the top five. The buzz around Eklund has seemingly only grown as well, so it probably won’t be a reality for the Flyers.
We’ll make one addition to the poll:
Jesper Wallstedt - G, Luleå HF - 0.908 SV% in 22 GP
“Wallstedt, having only just turned 18, has a practically spotless resume. At 13 years old he made his debut at u-18 junior level in Sweden. By the time he was 14 years old he was one of the best goalies at the u-18 level. At 15 years old he made the jump to u-20 level, before dominating the same level at age 16-17. He has also starred on the international level at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the U-18 World Juniors. And now, at just 18 years old, he has nine SHL games under his belt and a preposterous .931 sv% in them. Not bad for a league where the average sv% is under .910.” - Alexander Appleyard, Smaht Scouting
Who should be no. 6 on the 2021 BSH Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed