Coming from Karlstad, Sweden and playing for Farjestad, Joel Eriksson Ek knew the exploits of Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin very well.
Eriksson Ek could be playing with Brodin in the future after Minnesota made the 18-year-old Swedish center the 20th overall pick of the NHL Draft on Friday.
“It’s really fun,” Eriksson Ek said after being drafted in the first round by the Wild. “Being taken by the same team as Brodin and from next to the same cities, it’s pretty cool.”
Eriksson Ek is a 6-foot-2 center who split last season for Farjestad’s junior team and the Farjestad squad in the Swedish elite league. The fourth-ranked European skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, Eriksson Ek had four goals and two assists for Farjestad men’s team, scoring the most points of any under-18 eligible player in the Swedish Hockey League.
With the junior team, Eriksson Ek had 21 goals and 11 assists in 25 games. His 21 goals led the under-20 league.
“First of all, he’s a real mature kid,” Wild Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said. “He’s a big, two-way center; very smart player both ends of the rink. He’s a real hard working kid. He’s a character kid and he really shoots the puck. He has the ability to score goals but he does a lot of things."
Eriksson Ek provided his own scouting report after the draft.
“I’m kind of a two-way player, can feel comfortable to play on both sides of the puck and will do anything for the team to win, and always giving my best,” he said.
Eriksson Ek said he and Brodin were born in areas about 15 minutes apart in Karlstad though Eriksson Ek said he doesn’t know Brodin personally.
Like Brodin, Eriksson Ek spent his pre-draft season playing for Farjestad and the Swedish world junior team. Eriksson Ek’s father, Clas, played 13 seasons for Farjestads BK Karlstad in the Swedish elite league.
Eriksson Ek had five goals and one assist in five games for Sweden at the 2015 Under-18 World Championships. He added three goals and one assist for Sweden at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
“He’s a big leader on the Swedish national teams and every team he’s played on,” Flahr said. “He obviously played very well in all the tournaments and also played very well for Farjestad in the elite league already as a young player. So, that’s a good program. We know that from Jonas Brodin. But a terrific kid; his father played, was a hard-working player over there. We’re happy to get a big two-way center and add him to the mix.”
In the process, Eriksson Ek raised his standing from the 22nd-ranked European skate in the NHL’s midterm ranking to fourth in the final ranking.
“He is a very competitive, powerful center with great speed, a good strong shot and excellent puck-handling,” said the NHL's director of European scouting Goran Stubb. “He is creative on the offense while reliable on defense. Likes to go to the net to create scoring chances.”
Flahr said the Wild had trade options when it was on the clock, but chose to stay put and add the two-way center.
“Not when he was there, no,” Flahr said. “We had a couple of calls that were looking to move up into that spot but when he and a couple of other players were there, we had no interest in moving down.”
Eriksson Ek is still under contract for Farjestad and can return to his hometown to play next season.
“I think he’s in a good spot next year,” Flahr said. “He had a big role as a young player in the Swedish Elite League already. We know he’s in good hands over there. We know he’s going to play on the national team in world juniors and things like that. He’s in a good development situation and we look forward to watching him and hopefully to bring him over here sooner rather than later.”
Minnesota has five picks in the final six rounds of the draft on Saturday, and Flahr likes the depth of talent in the draft.
“We have a number of guys that we’re pretty excited about still that we think we have a chance to get there,” Flahr said. “But if we have a large number of players on the list and someone will pay a price to move up and we can move back a few spots. But if there’s good players on the board, I’d be a little hesitant to move back too far.”