Wild: Can Joel Eriksson Ek duplicate impressive 2020 season?

Joel Eriksson Ek was inked to a massive extension with the Minnesota Wild this offseason and the center is expected to be one of the leaders for the team this season.
Joel Eriksson Ek was inked to a massive extension with the Minnesota Wild this offseason and the center is expected to be one of the leaders for the team this season. /

Continuing the installment of Minnesota Wild Analytics. This series will preview each Wild player’s roles for the upcoming season and explain what analytics suggest for their 2021-22 season. Today we will cover Joel Eriksson Ek.

Previously at Gone Puck Wild, we discussed the 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Wild and how the team would rank in the NHL based on analytics. In the first two posts of this series, we have  also have looked at the projected numbers for Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.

Now we look at Joel Eriksson Ek.

When the offseason began for Wild general manager Bill Guerin, his initial Intentions were to get a deal in place for Kaprizov and Fiala way back in July. Unfortunately inking both was harder than it may have seemed.

With that in mind, Guerin shifted his attention to the Wild’s best center, Joel Eriksson Ek. Guerin told Michael Russo of The Athletic that he did not know how things were going to play out when the sides starting talking, but it only took them three days before the Wild resigned the 24-year old center. Eriksson Ek agreed to an eight-year deal worth $42 million ($5.25 AVV).

Minnesota Wild: Eriksson Ek’s role

In terms of minutes, the native of Karlstad, Sweden, was the most-played center for the Wild and the second highest forward behind Kaprizov. Ek logged 955.25 TOL in 56 games which would give him about 17 minutes a night.

Eriksson Ek put together an impressive 2020 season which ultimately got him a big-time deal. I don’t see Eriksson Ek’s role changing a whole lot for Dean Evanson’s team. Erikkson Ek  is undoubtedly the Wild’s best center and rightfully so, after amassing a 19 goal season with 30 points.

One would imagine Eriksson Ek will start the year off as their first-line center and will likely stay in the Wild’s top 6 the entire year. You would have to imagine guys like Marco Rossi and even Matt Boldy will eventually be getting some significant minutes for the Wild down the road. But nothing that would take time away from Eriksson Ek, who finished fourth in Selke voting for the league’s best defensive forward.

What Do The Analytics Say?

Eriksson Ek is coming off the best year of his career, but was this season an outlier? If you look at his numbers before his big year you would see they weren’t suggesting he’d go on to have a career year and be third on the team in scoring with 19.

That being said, he still is very good at generating some offense, which he has done each year for the Wild. Defensively, Eriksson Ek will stay the same. At some point in time, the Wild center will be rewarded with his name on the Selke trophy, as the best defensive forward in the NHL.

One thing analytics doesn’t measure is leadership, and he is a leader on-and-off the ice. This was shown through the maximum amount, 8-year extension he received in early July. Wild fans have heard it multiple times before, Guerin is trying to build a strong locker room chemistry, with a bunch of guys who want to be here and play for the Minnesota Wild. Guerin isn’t going to sign a guy to an eight-year extension if he is a problem in the locker room.

Eriksson Ek is a big part of this Wild team and future going forward, but will he duplicate the year he had? Currently based on past and previous seasons with the Wild, we should suspect Eriksson Ek to score 23 goals and record 27 assists for a 50-point season.

Final Thoughts

At some point in the 2021-2022 season, Joel Eriksson Ek will be wearing an A on his jersey, if not the whole season. He is a leader on and off the ice and a big part of this team, we can’t stress that enough. Although, it may seem like Eriksson Ek will take a step back this upcoming season, he actually will be on pace to set a career year in goals, assists, and points.

Baring the chance Eriksson Ek will get to play on a line with either Kaprizov or Fiala seems fitting for him to put up a 50-point campaign in the 82-game season. Eriksson Ek will also likely play on one of the two power-play units and will have a great chance to produce there as well.

Who knows, maybe Eriksson Ek will also cap his 2021 season off with a Selke win. Nonetheless, it will be another great season for the Wild center

All stats courtesy of evolving hockey and hockey reference.