ST. PAUL -- With the rookie forward on the cusp of his 10th NHL game, the Wild has a decision to make regarding Joel Eriksson Ek.
The 19-year-old 2015 first-round pick has performed admirably in his first NHL action, forcing coach Bruce Boudreau and general manager Chuck Fletcher to weigh options regarding Eriksson Ek's future - and present. Playing in 10 NHL games would essentially burn the first year of Eriksson Ek's entry-level contract.
With that in mind, the Wild can either:
- Re-assign Eriksson Ek to AHL affiliate Iowa. Following a brief work visa hiccup, he played one game in Des Moines and scored a goal prior to making his NHL debut Oct. 22.
- Send him back to his native Sweden to play in the country's top professional league. Eriksson Ek played two seasons for Farjestad BK before joining the Wild this season.
- Keep him in St. Paul. In nine NHL contests, Eriksson Ek has two goals and three assists, including a goal in his inaugural game at New Jersey.
"It's not a question of what I would like; the question is, 'What's best for Eriksson Ek?'" Boudreau said. "Whatever's best for him is the decision that will be made.
"Is a year in North America better than a year overseas back home? You've got to weigh the two. Or, is he good enough to stay here and play a minimum of 12-13 minutes every night for you? At his age, quite frankly, he's got a lot of years that he's going to play in the NHL."
Left winger Zach Parise's status will impact the team's choice. Parise practiced Monday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury and could play Tuesday.
The Wild would need to make a corresponding roster move if Parise plays Tuesday against Calgary, and Eriksson Ek would be a likely candidate. If Parise is unable to play, Minnesota would either recall a different forward or push Eriksson Ek past the 10-game mark.
Boudreau said the team would make a "game-time" Parise decision Tuesday. Additionally, Fletcher is in Toronto for the league's general manager meetings, so a final verdict on Eriksson Ek likely won't come till Tuesday, either.
Should the team choose to keep him in Minnesota, it could still send Eriksson Ek back to Sweden or Iowa at a later date. But making a move now would allow him to mature without losing a year off his current contract.
Boudreau compared the situation to that of Ducks center Rickard Rakell, whom Boudreau coached in Anaheim. Rakell played in four games his rookie season in 2012-13 before being sent to the Ducks' AHL affiliate. Today, he's an everyday difference maker coming off back-to-back 20-goal seasons.
"[Rakell] came along rather slowly, but now he's a bona fide, really good NHL player," Boudreau said. "I'm not saying the same thing is going to happen, because every situation is different, but those are things that you look at."
Out since Oct. 27 with a high right ankle sprain, defenseman Marco Scandella has been working out at Xcel Energy Center. Boudreau said "he's coming along," but Scandella can't return from long-term injured reserve until Minnesota's Nov. 23 matchup against Winnipeg.
Unwilling to provide much detail when asked how Scandella has looked while rehabbing, Boudreau fired off what's becoming a daily-ritual one-liner: "He's about 6-[foot]-3."