Minnesota Wild: Joel Eriksson Ek follows Nino’s lead

Joel Eriksson Ek scored his first goal of the season on Sunday afternoon, becoming the last of the Minnesota Wild top forwards to record a goal this year.

With Nino Niederreiter recording his first goal in 27 games on Thursday in Los Angeles, Joel Eriksson Ek became the longest scoring drought among Minnesota Wild forwards at 14 games without a point.

Eriksson Ek quickly erased that statistic by recording his first assist of the season Friday in Anaheim, then he followed that up with his first goal on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.

This offensive arrival from Joel is unexpected, but warmly welcomed by the Minnesota faithful who hope to see the former first round pick develop into a future star in the ‘State of Hockey’.

Playing on the third line this season, alongside Charlie Coyle and Jordan Greenway, Eriksson Ek has been relied upon more heavily in a checking and energy role than in a scoring role. His line has worked hard to win puck battles, but failed to generate much offense early in the year.

Over this last 7 game road trip, the grit and hard-work has begun to payoff for those three players. Coyle finished the trip with 4 assists, though he failed to record a goal. Greenway finished with 5 points, including his first 2 NHL regular season goals of his career.

Joel was the last one to get on the scoreboard, despite his linemates finding success earlier on. He finished last season with 16 points over 75 games, but was expected to be a more offensive presence than he has been so far in the NHL.

With all 12 members of the Minnesota Wild forward roster now on the scoreboard, and a different line being able to produce offense on any given night, things are looking bright for the Wild this season.

Eriksson Ek does not need to be an offensive weapon, that role can be left to Granlund, Zucker and Parise. What Eriksson Ek does well is battle hard and make his opponents earn every inch of ice every shift.

For Eriksson Ek to succeed, he needs to continue to play his game. Bruce Boudreau reportedly spoke to Eriksson Ek after the San Jose game, and explained to him to loosen up and just play hockey. Not to force his game, but to let the chances come to him.

That discussion appears to have worked wonders on the young Swede, as he has played three of his best games of the season since being singled out by the coach. Let’s hope he’s learned from this, and can continue to play at a high level now that he is in a groove.

With the 2 points from Eriksson Ek, it is now Coyle and Marcus Foligno tied for the longest goal scoring droughts on the team among forwards at 9 games each. Both players scored against Tampa Bay last month, but have been held without a goal since.

Next: Is Eriksson Ek the player we hoped for after 100 games?

Matt Hendricks has not recorded a point with the Minnesota Wild, but has also only played in 6 of 17 games so far. Greg Pateryn holds the current longest goalless streak of all Minnesota Wild players, at 72 games since his last goal.

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