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Preview/Lines #11: What’s Best for Eklund?

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Yesterday was a heartbreaking day for William Eklund.

You have to feel for him: He did do enough to stay in the NHL and he was a top-nine quality forward for the San Jose Sharks. He was good at this level – not great – and he was playing important NHL minutes. Very few people would dispute all that.

Eklund, Agent Believe He Should Be in NHL — Sharks Disagreed

“For a 19-year-old, he’s very far along and he’s very, very close to being a top-end player in this league,” Logan Couture acknowledged.

There’s also no argument that the San Jose Sharks benefit from not burning a year off Eklund’s entry-level contract. Of course, the organization says it’s not about that.

The area of contention is more about the long-term: Is Eklund’s long-term development better served in San Jose or Sweden?

The Sharks, obviously, answered that question in their own way by sending him back to Djurgardens. The mandate?

“Just go home and come back even stronger,” said five-foot-10 Eklund.

“You mature, your muscles. Guys used to make fun about my baby fat and stuff. Some guys grow early, some guys just later,” Tomas Hertl said, laughing. “He’ll get stronger and more muscle on him. That’s what really helped me. I think if I come right away after the Draft — 10 years ago, it was even more heavy. Now it’s a little different. I would probably get killed.”

Djurgardens is currently in the SHL cellar – but Jonathan Dahlen, who knows something about bringing a club back up from the depths, looked on the bright side of that. Dahlen carried Timra IK back to the SHL last season after their relegation to Allsvenskan.

“He’s going to have less games. More time to work out. He’s going to get stronger,” Dahlen said. “He’s going to get a lot of icetime. Play a lot in important situations. It’s a great experience to be in the bottom, fighting to turn something around.”

Eklund will probably also get a chance to represent Sweden at the World Junior Championships.

“He’s gonna do well when he gets over there and he’ll do well in World Juniors,” Couture offered. “It’d be good for him to go dominate the league and continue to play his game.”

Overseas, Eklund will also be skating on larger ice surfaces again. There was some argument, even if Eklund wasn’t on the San Jose Sharks, that he could benefit from continuing to get used to the smaller ice with the Barracuda.

Hertl, who played in the Czech league as a teenager, disagreed: “Players like Willie, I don’t think he needs it. He’s such a smart player and skilled. He will just come and he will be playing on big or small ice the same way. I think the transition for him will be no problem.”

The one thing that everybody agrees on?

“We saw it, he makes a lot of good plays. He’s got the big potential in him,” Hertl said. “He just has to keep working on it and he’ll be an elite player.”

“He’ll be back in no time,” Couture said.

San Jose Sharks (6-4-0)

New Jersey Devils (4-3-2)

New Jersey lost 3-2 in overtime last night in Los Angeles. MacKenzie Blackwood started, so expect Jonathan Bernier to take the net tonight. Line projections courtesy All About the Jersey:

Johnsson – Hischier – Bratt
Zacha – Mercer – Holtz
Tatar – McLeod – Vesey
Sharangovitch – Gauthier – Kuokkanen

Graves – Severson
Siegenthaler – Subban
Geertsen – Smith

Bernier

Where to Watch

Puck drop against New Jersey is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports Bay Area and ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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