The Sharks made their first notable roster
move of the season on Friday, when they reassigned centerman William Eklund to
Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League. Had the Sharks allowed Eklund to
play in a 10th NHL game, it would have triggered his three year entry-level
So this was just as much a business decision as it was a
development one. The Sharks brass leaned publicly on the need for the young
Swede to develop his game, but money and San Jose's ability to retain his
rights for as long as possible were the primary factors here.
was one of the toughest decisions we have had to make," said Sharks General
Manager Doug Wilson. "William's tremendous skill and vision have been evident
since his participation in our rookie tournament in September. In his nine NHL
games as a teenager, he has shown that he is going to be a special player in
this league but ultimately, we feel it is in the best interest of his long-term
development to return to Sweden and continue to work on becoming the dominant
player we know he can be."
Eklund's teammates were all very
complimentary of the rookie forward who recorded 4 assists in 9 games this
season. The rookie's small frame is something he'll need to work on while
spending his winter back home. The 5'10" 175 pound center wowed fans and
critics alike with his silky smooth skating style, but he'll need to grow out
of his 19 year old adolescent frame and bulk up in order to deal with the
rigors of the everyday grind that is the NHL.
There's no doubting
Eklund's talent, but the Sharks want to ensure that they benefit from his
talent when he'll be able to remain in the lineup. A hit by Buffalo Sabres
centerman Dylan Cozens reminded the Sharks of threats that Eklund will face in
the NHL. The Sharks forward was able to shake off the hit, but it left the
Sharks brass holding their breath.
"I did what I could to stay here," said a dejected
Eklund in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "I tried to do my best
everyday, of course rules are rules." Eklund was referring to the rules
regarding contract activations.
When prompted to reveal what the
Sharks have told Eklund, the rookie was terse.
"Develop. Be an even
better player next year."
There's no doubt the rookie was taking the
news hard. He was guarded in his responses, but he did open up about the
mentorship that his teammates provided.
"Playing with guys like Burns,
Couture and Hertl and being able to see how they work off the ice in the
practice room was a big experience for me. There are good role models for the
young guys here.
Hopefully we'll get a chance to see his development
take shape next season.