William Eklund fell slightly ahead of expectation on Friday in the first round of the NHL Draft.
Eklund, however, was not one to be swamped by the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks picked Swedish-born winger Eklund with the number 7 pick in the first round, their biggest pick since 2003 when they picked Milan Michalek for sixth overall.
Some of the players drafted each year are immediately ready to play in the NHL. Eklund may be a long shot to stay in Sharks uniform at the start of the regular season, but he could be closer than some of the other players picked in the top 10 on Friday.
Eklund, who turns 19 on October 12, was ranked as the top international skater by NHL Central Scouting and listed by some as one of the top five players available, including TSN’s Bob Mackenzie. .
Eklund played for the Swedish Hockey League’s Djurgardens this past season and against more physically mature players, had 23 points from 40 games, figures which are the highest in that league for a draft-qualified player.
“I’m trying to see how other men act and how much more professional they are on the ice,” Eklund said when asked about their maturity for their age, “and for my four young children. Being a good big brother at home, brother. So, I am trying to grow up as soon as possible.”
Eklund, listed at 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, has also been described as a steady, two-way player with terrific hockey spirit, a trait that sharks usually covet, and he played with Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Ahoy. compared to.
Eklund says he likes to model his game after Matt Barzal of the New York Islanders. Barzal, 24, was drafted 16th overall in 2015 and has led the Islanders in each of the last four seasons.
Eklund said of Barzal, “He’s very good at finding his teammates in tight areas and making room for himself and making quick turns.” “I’m trying to watch him develop my game.”
ESPN and Sportsnet analyst Sam Costantino said on Friday that Eklund was the best player in Europe this past year, combining responsible play with dynamic playmaking and skill.
We had an exclusive call to our latest shark, William Eklund. 😊 pic.twitter.com/um70MDCG1d
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) July 24, 2021
Asked if he could stay in Europe for another year to develop, Eklund said he was unsure. “I can’t focus on that right now,” he said.
In the first six picks, defenseman Owen Power went first for the Buffalo Sabers, followed by Michigan teammate, Matty Beniers, in expansion to the Seattle Kraken.
Center Mason McTavish finished third behind the Anaheim Ducks, and Luke Hughes became the second defenseman, finishing fourth for New Jersey. Another Michigan Wolverine, center Kent Johnson finished fifth overall for Columbus.
Defenseman Simon Edwinson left the Sharks and went to Detroit to select Eklund.
This year’s draft was expected to be one of the most unexpected of years, as NHL scouts struggled to get a complete read on some individual players.
While Power was considered the best player available, then predicting who went from sixth to third after Beniers was more of a challenge. Same with the bottom half of the top 10, because it all depends on how the teams feel about each player.
“There are some quality people in the range we’re in,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said earlier this week. “It’s the first time in 18 years that we’ve drafted this high. There are at least eight, nine players deep in the draft, so we’ll see how it all unfolds.
“Every team has a different plan for what they’re looking for, and I don’t think anyone can predict how it’s going to fall.”
Despite the pandemic limiting the number of games in the NCAA and USHL, and major junior sports in Western Canada and Quebec, Sharks’ scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. said his staff’s evaluation process goes without interruption.
“So the only player that really affects is probably the second to seventh round OHL players who didn’t play at all,” Wilson Jr. said.
The Sharks, for now, are unwilling to pick up again until the third round, number 71 overall, when the draft resumes on Saturday with rounds two to seven. The Sharks also have two picks on both numbers in the fourth round. 103 and 121, and in the fifth round No. 135 and 156. He also has picks in the sixth (No. 167) and seventh round (No. 199).