It’s easy for fans and media, just like players, to prioritize offensive success over defensive details.
That’s how San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn saw William Eklund’s performance in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
There were the spectacular near-goals…
200 feet of Eklund: Intercepts Beauvillier's pass, breaks Boeser's ankles, almost dekes Demko out of his pants, and to cap it off, checks Hertl hard pic.twitter.com/kzG29oSlf0
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) November 21, 2023
— JD Young (@MyFryHole) November 21, 2023
But then, Quinn took Eklund off Tomas Hertl’s line, in favor of Filip Zadina, in the third period.
“You’re asking a 21-year-old to act like a 28-year-old,” Quinn explained. “Not let those instances [of missed scoring chances] to get in the way of all the other responsibilities he has within the shift, whether it be in the neutral zone or the D-zone. When you’re young, sometimes you get consumed with that, and it gets in the way of doing your other jobs. That’s something he’s learning on the go, and we’ve got to keep on him about.”
It’s part of the continued education of the San Jose Sharks’ star prospect, which we got into last week, when Quinn benched Eklund for half a period.
It’s worth emphasizing that these have been very short-term demotions so far. Quinn said today after practice that his intention was to re-insert Eklund next to Hertl and Fabian Zetterlund tomorrow against the Seattle Kraken.
“Young players always gauge themselves by goals and assists. He’s gonna be a productive player offensively here,” Quinn said. “It’s always nice to see him get these scoring chances. Because the more chances you get, the better chance you have of being productive offensively. That line has done a good job offensively. We’d like to see him be a little bit better defensively.”
Sometimes, fans think that a star prospect can do no wrong. It’s easy to forget that Eklund is still learning the NHL game.
And for Quinn, it’s his job, especially in a rebuilding situation like the San Jose Sharks are in, to turn talent not just into production, but into a winning two-way hockey player.
“The thing I love about him is he’s always trying to get better in the other areas. That matters to him,” Quinn said of Eklund. “It takes time. That’s what we all have to keep in mind, we have to have a level of patience.”
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