William Eklund is set to become just the seventh San Jose Sharks draft pick to play in the NHL right after he was drafted.
It’s a select group — and Eklund will be the first since Milan Michalek in 2003.
These were the previous half-dozen: Pat Falloon (1991), Ray Whitney (1991), Vlastimil Kroupa (1993), Jeff Friesen (1994), Patrick Marleau (1997), and Michalek.
We actually spoke with Falloon about the pressures of coming into the NHL right out of the Draft recently:
If you’ve watched William Eklund at all this pre-season — even considering he’s just 19 and a smallish 5-foot-10 — it’s no surprise that he’s here. He was absolutely one of the San Jose Sharks’ best players in the preseason, more than just good for his age, simply good.
So when did San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner know that Eklund was going straight to the NHL?
“I think after game two or three, you start saying he may have a chance. After development camp, after rookie camp I thought for sure he’s going to go back for a year. He’s going to take another year, which was fine,” Boughner shared. “But almost when he got with better players and better competition, he raised his game. Now he’s to the point, sometimes he’s dictating the pace of the line or the matchup he’s against. Let’s hope that continues.”
Eklund was indeed impressive from the jump — here’s what I wrote about his preseason debut on Sept. 26: “I thought William Eklund looked fantastic. The 2021 lottery pick impressed me on both sides of the ice all night.”
And Eklund just kept getting better.
“After game three or four, we talked about earning a chance to play here and knocking the door down for the young guys. He definitely did that,” Boughner said.
Eklund agreed with his new head coach’s timeline: “I don’t know if there was a special moment, but I think Bob has a good call there, like [Game] 3-4, felt pretty good.”
In fact, after San Jose’s fourth preseason game, a 3-1 victory over Anaheim, the grizzled bench boss gushed: “I thought Eklund was awesome.”
And how about this?
“I don’t think it mattered how he played in game six of exhibition,” Boughner admitted. “I think that we knew he was a special guy who could help us, especially on the power play.”
Yes, William Eklund was so good in the preseason, he had already sewn up his roster spot well before the preseason finale.
The big question tonight: Can the wunderkind raise his level once again, on the world’s biggest hockey stage? Who’s betting against him?
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