William Eklund, meet Mr. Shark.
Sharks’ future collided with Sharks’ past when Eklund met Patrick Marleau for the first time at San Jose Sharks development camp on Tuesday.
Not many people, not even San Jose Barracuda head coach John McCarthy, who’s running development camp, knew that the just-retired Sharks legend would be guesting as a coach. Apparently, Marleau just ducked into Tuesday morning’s video session, igniting a buzz among the assembled prospects.
“Just seeing him in the locker room? That’s a cool thing,” Eklund said, beaming. “He’s been through a lot in the NHL, for this organization. He’s been huge.”
The San Jose Sharks hope their 2021 seventh-overall pick can have a large fraction of the impact that their 1997 second-overall pick had on the organization. Marleau officially retired in May as the Sharks leader with 1,607 games played, 522 goals, and 1,111 points in teal.
Eklund and Marleau both came to the franchise at a time when it was in flux: Marleau made his NHL debut in Oct. 1997, San Jose two years and running out of the playoffs. Eklund made his NHL debut in Oct. 2021, the Sharks two years and running out of the playoffs.
On both teams, Eklund and Marleau were the highest-selected homegrown draft picks in the line-up.
Eklund, however, was unable to replicate Marleau’s first-year success. The Sharks legend managed 13 goals and 19 assists in his rookie campaign, helping San Jose back into the post-season, whereas the wunderkind Swede enjoyed a nine-game cup of coffee this past season, before getting sent back to his SHL side.
The Sharks missed the playoffs once again, the first time in franchise history that they’ve missed the post-season three straight years.
But it’s a new day: Eklund comes into this development camp as already one of the Sharks’ most-skilled forwards – at any level. Only stars Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture are clearly ahead of him in that department. Whether or not the goal-starved Sharks surprise this year probably depends a lot on Eklund.
No pressure, William.
“I don’t feel pressure. There’s been pressure on me a lot of times, growing up,” he said. “I kind of like that.”
He has broader shoulders to carry the weight now. The 5-foot-10 Eklund told Locked On Sharks that he’s gained seven pounds of muscle over the summer.
But it’s not just about getting stronger and faster. The winger echoed the criticism of ex-San Jose Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr., who told the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast in May that Eklund needs to stop insisting on the perfect play.
“There’s a lot of truth in that. I’ve been a more pass-first guy my whole life,” Eklund admitted. “I have to [transform] that into shooting [more], be a double threat there. And that’s what I want to do in this year.”
But first things first: “I just want to make this team, that’s my biggest goal.”
Eklund says the first restaurant that he went to on his return to US was Chipotle
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) July 14, 2022
NOTE: I told William that he should open a Chipotle franchise in Sweden after he signs his next contract.
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