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Prospect Update: Olle Eriksson Ek
By Thomas Harrington
Olle Eriksson Ek was a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He’s spent the last two years playing in Europe, but I expect him to be in North America this coming season.
Eriksson Ek spent most of last year playing in the Allsvenskan league, Sweden’s second-highest professional league. He played for BIK Karlskoga and was their backup. He played in 16 games with a record of 7-8-1, a goals against average of 2.77, a .901 save percentage, and one shutout. Two of those wins came in overtime, as did one of his losses. He also lost one game in a shootout. Eriksson Ek did not play in any playoff games for BIK Karlskoga.
Eriksson Ek also played for Team Sweden at the World Junior Champions. He served as the team’s backup, but he did play in one game in the tournament against Kazakhstan. He stopped 10 of 11 shots, helping Sweden win the game 4-1. This was Eriksson Ek’s final World Junior appearance.
After the conclusion of his season in Europe, Eriksson Ek headed to San Diego at the end of March. As the Gulls were fighting for their playoff lives, he didn’t get into any games with his new team. If the Gulls were out of the Calder Cup playoff race, he likely would have made his North American debut this past season.
This coming season, Eriksson Ek should spend the entire year in North America. Kevin Boyle and the recently signed Anthony Stolarz will likely be San Diego’s starters, splitting time in net, as long as John Gibson and Ryan Miller both stay healthy. So there are two options for Eriksson Ek in this scenario: be the team’s third-string goaltender and be used sparingly, or find playing time in the ECHL where he will likely get significantly more playing time. However, if either Gibson or Miller get injured for any length of time, Boyle or Stolarz could see extensive time up in Anaheim, leaving Eriksson Ek to get more games for the Gulls.
Eriksson Ek met one of my expectations from a year ago but missed the other. I had wanted him to suit up in the SHL, Sweden’s top professional hockey league, and arguably the third-best league in the world. That didn’t happen. My other expectation for him was to play for Sweden at the World Juniors, which he did. It’s unfortunate that he only got into one game, but he still met my expectation to play at the World Juniors.
For this season, my expectations for Eriksson Ek are simple: adjust to North American hockey and play solid hockey. He’s going to struggle at times, and not start on a consistent basis, but as long as he is putting up decent to good numbers overall when he’s in net, I’ll be happy with his season. He doesn’t need to lead AHL rookie goaltenders in wins or shutouts, but I do expect him to have a decent record and keep his goals against average and save percentage relatively low.
Goaltenders are notoriously hard to predict from season to season, so it’s even harder to guess what a goalie’s career path will be. However, Eriksson Ek does seem to have the tools to at least make it to the NHL someday. Not necessarily as a starter, and maybe not even as a full-time backup, but I do believe that he has the potential to at least play in the NHL as a team’s third option in net. If he does make it to the NHL, it still won’t be for at least another year or two. He’ll probably be in minors for at least the next two seasons, if not more. When Miller retires, Anaheim will need another backup for Gibson. It remains to be seen if that will be Boyle, Stolarz, or someone else. Depending on when this happens, or if both Boyle and Stolarz leave the team via free agency or trade, Eriksson Ek could step in and become San Diego’s starter. If he can play well in that role, he could then follow that up with his NHL debut a year or so after that. So I could see him in Anaheim in two to four years’ time.
Eriksson Ek’s entry-level contract will begin this year. It will be up in three years, at which point he’ll be a restricted free agent. Assuming he’s San Diego’s starter by then, I believe the Ducks will offer him an extension. However, if he’s struggled against North American competition, the Ducks could decide to not qualify him and hope one of their other goaltending prospects works out instead.
The next prospect update will be on Alex Dostie.
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July 23rd, 2019