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Eklund, Quinn on Moving Young Sharks Star to 4th Line

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Credit: Dean Tait/Hockey Shots

David Quinn says that he’s giving William Eklund a reprieve.

So Quinn has dropped Eklund from second-line center to fourth-line wing to start tonight.

There’s no doubt that Eklund, like most of the San Jose Sharks, just had a tough road trip. Eklund had zero points and was tied with Henry Thrun for a team-worst -9 in those five-straight losses. He averaged 19:14 a night, third-most among Sharks forwards, and had a 20.9 Faceoff Winning %.

Obviously, points and plus-minus and FOW% don’t tell the whole story – but it was pretty clear to the naked eye that Eklund was having a difficult time.

Our Top-10 Sharks Prospects, Post-Trade Deadline

 

“I think it’s a little bit of a tough stretch for him here. A lot of minutes. He’s playing against tough competition,” Quinn said about the change. “Maybe give him a little bit of reprieve.”

The San Jose Sharks’ No. 7 pick in the 2021 Draft took the demotion in stride, recognizing that it hasn’t necessarily been a smooth season. It’s essentially his rookie year, his first full season in the NHL, after having cups of coffee in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

“It’s been ups and downs. That’s what it’s gonna be like in a season too, a long season, my first [full] season in the NHL. I know it’s gonna happen,” the 21-year-old Swede told San Jose Hockey Now.

Part of the challenge for Eklund this season has been an unexpected change in his role, from scoring winger to second-line center. The Sharks, surprisingly, traded top center Tomas Hertl to the Vegas Golden Knights during the Trade Deadline, and they’ve been without injured pivot Logan Couture for most of the year.

So while Eklund hasn’t played center since 2021-22 in Sweden, since Jan. 30 this season, he’s been up the middle, registering two goals and nine points and a 30.9 FOW% and team-worst -21 in 18 games. Calen Addison, by the way, is second-worst with a -14 in this stretch.

For what it’s worth, I think Eklund had been holding his own at center up to this road trip. But also no doubt, it’s a hard position, made harder on the worst team in the NHL.

Look, for example, how fellow youngster Thomas Bordeleau has flourished recently as a winger.

Quinn on Bordeleau: ‘I get the feeling that he’s kind of getting it.’

Quinn understands Eklund’s plight: “It’s been a tall task for him. Everybody wants to play center in the National Hockey League.

“All these forwards think about is I want to go in the middle so I can play some offense and have the puck more, well, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

Quinn also thinks that Eklund might physically be hitting a wall too in his first 82-game campaign, though the 5-foot-10 forward didn’t necessarily agree with that.

“I think part of it might be that he may be wearing down a little bit physically because it’s a long season and he’s not a big guy and he’s playing against everybody’s top lines and pairings,” Quinn said. “That can catch up to you.”

“I don’t know about that. Nothing I [really] think about it,” Eklund said, when asked if he feels like he’s wearing down.

Players, of course, aren’t usually public about something like that.

Quinn and Eklund are on the same page on the ice, anyway.

“Just more pace, more competitiveness in battles,” Quinn said, on what he’s looking for from Eklund. “Just a more complete game.”

“Just go there and do your thing,” Eklund said about the coaching staff’s message to him. “Play hard, be good in the D-zone, be good in the offensive zone.

“I just gotta find a way how to go back and be better.”

Eklund Subscriber Q&A: Who’s His Celebrity Crush? What Would His Job Be If Not Hockey? (+)

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