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Eklund’s Challenge: Be ‘That Guy’ in AHL

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

“They want me to play a lot of minutes and be that guy.”

In William Eklund’s own words, that’s why the San Jose Sharks sent him down.

In the last three years, 29 players, including Eklund, have made their NHL debuts with the Sharks. Most assuredly, the lot of them, including Eklund last year, weren’t “that guy” wherever they were coming from.

And that might be why only one of those 29, Mario Ferraro, is considered a bona fide NHL player today. Noah Gregor and Nikolai Knyzhov are in that conversation as well, but it’s a really short list.

But things are different under new San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier, who has put a greater emphasis, at the outset of his tenure, on NHL playing time being earned. Dominate the AHL, and maybe then, we’ll talk NHL.

So while Eklund is the seventh-overall pick of the 2021 Draft, he knows that nothing will be handed to him.

His focus is simple with the San Jose Barracuda: “Just going to keep going and try to improve my game every day.”

Euro Trip

Eklund made the most of his trip to Berlin and Prague with the San Jose Sharks, even though he didn’t get to play in any games.

He saw his father Christian and mother Mia, other family members, and even ex-Sharks winger Marcus Sorensen, his Djurgardens teammate last year, who currently plays for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in Switzerland.

He also had one of the best culinary experiences in his life in Prague, dessert at Cerveny Jelen, at the team dinner hosted by native son Tomas Hertl.

“It was pretty much bread with some whipped cream thing in the middle. I don’t know what it’s called. It was some salted caramel stuff,” Eklund smiled. “It was so good. Probably one of the best I’ve ever had.”

Eklund is describing a Czech větrník, a choux pastry filled with caramel cream.

Bosom Buddies

One of the fun stories from last training camp was the budding friendship between Eklund and Jasper Weatherby. It looks like that friendship will continue this year, not just on the Barracuda, but in the same apartment complex.

Eklund will be living on his own — “I’m going to have a lot of family and friends over. They want to come to the warm weather in California.” – but he’ll be in the same building as Weatherby, Jeffrey Viel, and other Barracuda.

“It’s pretty fun to have those guys around,” Eklund said.

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