Joel Eriksson Ek, despite having now appeared in 117 regular season games for the Minnesota Wild, is still far from the finished product. His recent demotion to the Iowa Wild mustn’t be viewed as dropping down a level, but rather as an opportunity.
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (20th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, it’s fair to say that he was under a certain degree of pressure to live up to his first-round pedigree. So far this season though, Joel Eriksson Ek has struggled mightily to find his game; in fact, we called for him to spend time with the Iowa Wild a while back.
Already this year, we’ve seen that the young guys on the Minnesota Wild roster aren’t all necessarily finding the transition to night-in, night-out NHL hockey an easy one. Jordan Greenway would be the prime example; he too was sent to play with the Iowa Wild when he was struggling for confidence and it seemed to do him some good.
At an early glance, the American Hockey League is the right place for Joel Eriksson Ek to gain confidence too. Whether it’s a case of moving from a losing squad to one that is regularly winning it whether it’s simply the step down in quality allowing him to shine, we’re not complaining.
On his first night, Joel Eriksson Ek netted two of the Iowa Wild’s three goals as they beat the Milwaukee Admirals 3-1, before notching another goal as they defeated the Chicago Wolves by the same scoreline.
For a player that managed just one goal and three assists across 27 games for the Minnesota Wild this season, that’s a remarkable return in just two games.
Looking at his goal against the Wolves, you have to wonder where this version of the Eriksson Ek has been all this time:
Now, Joel Eriksson Ek has all the tools to succeed and play a role on the Minnesota Wild team; his ceiling is probably third-line duties, but he has shown growth year-on-year, not the least his face-off winning percentage that has leapt to a very reputable 52.3%.
The next step is to build some more trust; the primary goal for him during his time with the Iowa Wild is to prove that he can be relied upon on both special teams. He’s already seen some penalty-kill time with the Minnesota Wild, but needs to continue to focus on that defensive growth.
It’s hard to judge what the correct amount of time is for Eriksson Ek to spend with the Iowa Wild, but you’d have to imagine that any real growth won’t occur overnight.
His confidence level will no doubt now be a lot higher at this moment in time, purely on the fact he’s found the net three times in two nights. Based on that, you could make the argument to send him back to Minnesota already.
That though, I feel, would be a foolish move. Give the kid a month with second line duties in Iowa. The player that returns to the NHL will hopefully not only have his confidence back but be a little more well-rounded and a little less shy when it comes to shooting, especially if the goals continue to go in.
So far, so good for seizing the opportunity, let’s hope it continues.