Prospect Update: Olle Eriksson Ek

Photo: San Diego Gulls

By Thomas Harrington

A fifth-round pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek just completed his first season of hockey in North America. He had been playing in Sweden prior to this past season.

This past year, Anaheim’s system was incredibly deep in the net. In the NHL, there was John Gibson and Ryan Miller. In the AHL, there was Anthony Stolarz and Kevin Boyle. After those four, the Ducks also had Roman Durny, Angus Redmond, and Eriksson Ek playing professional hockey. As a result of so many goalies in the system, Eriksson Ek spent the entire year in the ECHL, playing for the Tulsa Oilers. He played in 27 games for the Oilers and had a record of 10-11-3-1, with a goals against average of 3.01, a.902 save percentage, and one shutout. Eriksson Ek was one of three goaltenders to play for the Oilers last season, but essentially split starting duties with Devin Williams, who played in 33 games.

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Eriksson Ek didn’t quite meet the expectations that I set for him last year, but he wasn’t that far off. I didn’t have any particular numbers in mind, but I wanted him to adjust to North American hockey, put up solid numbers and have a decent record. While his numbers weren’t terrible, they also weren’t great, as he ranked 20th in save percentage and 16th in goals against average in the ECHL. However, I’m happy enough with his overall record. A game below .500 is fine for his rookie season.

This coming season, Eriksson Ek will once again be playing in North America, but it’s not clear exactly where he will be playing. Anaheim’s goaltending situation is very fluid right now. Gibson will be Anaheim’s starter, but after him, things are a little more questionable. Miller has been Gibson’s backup for the past three years, but there’s a chance that he could retire this summer. If he does, the Ducks could seek to bring in a free agent or make a trade to fill the spot.

Alternatively, they could turn to Stolarz, who was San Diego’s starter last year and played very well in his lone NHL game. If Stolarz does go to Anaheim, there could be at least one open spot in San Diego, possibly two, if the Ducks decide not to re-sign Boyle, who will be an unrestricted free agent once the NHL gets to its offseason.

If both are gone, there will be two open spots in San Diego. If that does happen, then Eriksson Ek will be one of several Anaheim prospects competing for those spots, along with Roman Durny and probably Lukas Dostal. However, I don’t think the Gulls will go with two rookie goaltenders, so even if both Stolarz and Boyle are not in San Diego, I do think they will bring in a veteran to at least be the backup, and be the starter if necessary. It will be a tight competition, but I do think Eriksson Ek will get some games in the AHL, assuming their season happens.

I have two sets of expectations for Eriksson Ek this coming season. When he’s in the ECHL, to be better than he was last season. When he’s in the AHL, to play well, but similar to last year, I’m not going to put definitive numbers on him in a league that he hasn’t played in. Also, while I don’t think he’ll necessarily spend the entire year in the AHL, I would like to see him make his San Diego Gulls debut.

The path a goaltender takes to get to the NHL has always been difficult to chart, and I feel like ever since Jordan Binnington burst onto the scene and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup, that has become even more true. If Eriksson Ek spends all of next season in San Diego and is their starter by season’s end, we could see him get a taste of the NHL in the next couple of years. However, if he spends most of the season in the ECHL, then he’s probably several years away from making his NHL debut.

Eriksson Ek has two years remaining on his entry-level contract and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it ends. How he develops over the next two seasons, as well as Anaheim’s other prospective goaltenders, will inform whether or not he gets re-signed. If he looks like the best of them, he’ll get a contract extension, possibly on a one-way deal. If he looks good but not great, he could get an extension on a two-way deal. Finally, if it looks like he’s not going to make it to the NHL, Anaheim could decide to not give him a qualifying offer and let him leave as a free agent. The next two seasons will be very important for his future in Anaheim.

The next prospect update will be on Hunter Drew.

Related Articles:

Prospect Update: Jack Badini

Prospect Update: Josh Mahura

Prospect Profile: Axel Andersson

Prospect Profile: Bryce Kindopp

Look Back At Last Summer’s Graduated Prospects

Graduated Prospect: Sam Steel

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August 4th, 2020


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