Joel Eriksson Ek
Weight: 185 lbs.
Current Team: Färjestad (SHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 4 (Europe)
ISS Ranking: 20
Joel Eriksson Ek is more than just a guy with a cool name (how often do you see players with a space in their name?) He's a very solid two-way center who will likely be taken in the late first round.
Eriksson Ek split his season between the second and top level of Swedish hockey. When playing among people his own age, he dominated. He was more than a point-a-game player in the SuperElit league, earning him a callup. He was quiet once he jumped up a level, scoring only four goals and two assists in 34 games.
He played very well at the U-18 tournament, leading Sweden with five goals. He left his mark at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial as well, scoring three goals and one assist in five games.
Scouts are a bit worried about his offensive consistency and what his potential as a scorer can be. He isn't afraid to go to the net, and is considered a very hard working player. He has a strong shot and is a intelligent on both ends of the ice. Even if his offensive abilities don't translate perfectly to the NHL, he'll likely still be a sound player in his own zone.
He'll need to bulk up a bit to play at the NHL level, or even among men in the SHL very likely. But that's a common issue for 18-year-olds, and shouldn't be seen as much of a knock.
Center is a position of strength now for the Sabres, with Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson all showing promise, and that's before even mentioning Mikhail Grigorenko. Of course you can always move a player to wing, including Eriksson Ek, but the Sabres may feel more confident taking a natural winger with their second or third picks. He may make more sense at 31 than 21.
What They're Saying
"He is a very competitive, powerful center with great speed, a good strong shot and excellent puck-handling. He is creative on the offense while reliable on defense. Likes to go to the net to create scoring chances."
-Goran Stubb, Director of European Scouting
"He is a well-balanced centre who can play in any situation. He’s an intelligent player who reads the play quickly, taking advantage both offensively and defensively. Good skills and is comfortable playing in any style of game and has a strong competitive approach. Maturity will be longer but potential is high."
-Craig Button, TSN
"Eriksson Ek is one of those few young players who has a definite grasp of the defensive side of the puck and can play a responsible two-way game. The two question marks around his future are how he develops his offensive game and how much bulkier he can get."
-The Hockey News