Minnesota Wild: Eriksson-Ek Looks to Dominate World Juniors
Joel Eriksson-Ek led his Swedish National Junior team to a decisive first win today in Montreal to open the World Junior Championship. As captain of Team Sweden he’ll no doubt be taking a huge step in his development and will return to the Wild next season even better for this experience.
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When making the decision whether Joel Eriksson-Ek should stay with the Minnesota Wild after his 9 game trial, one of the larger factors was his participation in the World Junior Championships. Erkisson-Ek had a great summer development camp with Team Sweden and looked to be a huge factor for the Swedes in the tourney that started today in Montreal.
The World Junior Championship has been the proving ground for many of the NHL’s great players, and the Wild figured that the playing time he’s going to receive against the world’s best young players could be invaluable.
As captain of Team Sweden not only does it seem like he’ll get that playing time, but Eriksson-Ek will get the chance to lead some of the best young players in the world on the Swedish squad. As the Wild look to build not only the next generation of scoreboard producers, but locker room leaders the valuable leadership experience that he’ll get leading Team Sweden will go perhaps further than any development he could get playing with Farjestad, Iowa, or even Minnesota.
Oct 29, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek (14) checks Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel (21) in the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild beat the Dallas Stars 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Still don’t count out Eriksson-Ek from being a difference maker on the scoresheet. His performance in the USA Hockey sponsored development tourney in August showcased a strong Eriksson-Ek. He tallied a goal early in the tournament and showed excellent potential on both sides of the puck.
Then in action today to open the tourney the Swedish captain opened with an impressive two points (1 goal and 1 assist) as his team rolled to a 6-1 pummeling of Denmark. He notched a goal late in the first period to make it 2-0 Sweden, and added his assist late in the second period on Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander’s second goal of the game to make the score and impressive 6-0.
It’s certainly a great thing to see the Wild’s 2015 first round pick do well on stage where he should be one of the best. The expectation is that the NHL experienced Eriksson-Ek will be one of the best players in the tournament and thus far he’s proving that. As the schedule yields tougher challenges for the Swedes look for their captain to step up as he always does, quietly letting his play do all the talking.
If you were one of the people who thought sending Eriksson-Ek back to Sweden was a bad idea, watch this tournament and see the growth that has happened since he left. The Wild will get an even better version of the young center next season. The World Juniors will be another great showcase of just how great that version will be.