Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our William Eklund Scouting Report.
William Eklund has spent the season with Djugardens in the SHL, and its been clear that the 18-year-old was ready to play in the country’s top men’s league on a full-time basis. Eklund put up 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 40 games this year. Djugardens is currently playing in the SHL Playoffs. Earlier this year, Eklund was expected to be a top-six centre for the Swedish World Junior Hockey Championship team. However, he missed the tournament after a positive COVID test.
In 2019-20 he started the year with five points in five games at the Under-18 Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, helping the Swedish team to a Bronze medal. He played 20 games in the SHL, putting up just two assists. Eklund was also held scoreless in two Champions Hockey League games. He looked more at home in the Under-20 league with 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points in 31 games. He also made Swedish national teams at the under-17 and under-16 levels.
William Eklund Scouting Report
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born October 12th, 2002 — Haninge, Sweden
Height 5’10” — Weight 172 lbs [178 cm/78 kg]
Eklund is a very good skater. His top-end speed is very good, but not quite in the great category. However, the rest of his skating skills are close to elite. His agility and edgework are at an extremely high level. He can change directions quickly, fooling defenders. He also has a quick first step and excellent acceleration. This allows Eklund to dart into openings, beat others to loose pucks, and fool defenders by changing speeds of the rush. Given his size, he has a strong lower body and is tough to knock off the puck, especially when playing in his age group. However, there is still room to get an even stronger lower body, allowing him to win more battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Eklund is a very smart player. He loves to slow the play down and find openings in the defence. He has very good stickhandling and puck control, as well as his good balance. This allows him to control the puck in the offensive zone and wait for opportunities to pass the puck to a teammate. When that opportunity comes he can quickly thread a pass through a small area, or saucer it over a stick to set up a scoring chance for a teammate. Eklund also creates openings and passing lanes with his quick stick and excellent skating ability. If he gets a step on a defender, he is not afraid to quickly dart by him and head to the net. Eklund is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice.
Eklund has a very good shot, but could learn to be a bit more selfish and shoot more. His wrist shot and snap shot are both powerful and accurate. He also gets both of those shots off quickly and his deceptive release can fool goalies at times. His slap shot and one-timer could use more power though. This may come as he continues to put muscle on his frame. Eklund’s quick hands also help him to score goals in tight to the net.
Eklund is a very good defensive player. He reads the play well and puts himself in good positions to cut down passing lanes. He is willing to work down low, supporting the defence against the cycle game. Eklund also does a good job of applying backpressure and helping the defence that way. His positioning is solid and he stays on the right side of the puck. Once a turnover is created, Eklund does a good job of moving the puck out of the defensive zone and starting the transition game. He will need to improve a bit in the faceoff circle, though this should come with more strength, continued hard work, and solid coaching.
Projection and Comparison
Eklund has spent most of his time in the SHL at left wing, however played centre at junior levels and for the Swedish National Junior teams. Given his skating, playmaking ability, and defensive game, he likely will be a centre at the NHL level. With a year of professional hockey, against men, under his belt, Eklund is one of the more NHL-ready prospects in this year’s draft. However, it is not a sure thing, and he would have to perform in training camp. Another year in the SHL and a World Junior experience would not hurt his development either. However, I would not expect him to be more than a year away at most. Eklund’s game is reminiscent of Henrik Zetterberg but this is a style comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of William Eklund that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
William Eklund Scouting Report Main Photo: