Former Wild first-round pick Joel Eriksson Ek has just three points in 11 games this season. But don't be disappointed by his low point total.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau raved about Eriksson Ek in the preseason, saying he's bulked up and believed his potential is through the roof. USA Today listed Eriksson Ek as a candidate to win the Calder Trophy – the NHL's award for Rookie of the Year.
Although the point production has been scarce early on, Minnesota's bench boss says it's all about getting the youngster experience in the NHL.
"He's been up and down and for the most part, but I trust him out there," said Boudreau to GoMNSports after Thursday's win over Montreal. "And he works really hard. Young kids need time to get better-and-better and experience and playing time and that's what he's getting right now."
The 20-year-old is averaging just over 13 minutes a night while centering a line of Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart over the last few games.
Stewart got off to a hot start offensively, but that's a line that has significant size as all three players are well over 6-feet tall. And If anything, that's more a checking or defensive line tasked with slowing down opponents, which tends to overwhelm young player like Eriksson Ek.
After losing a rash of players to injuries early on, Minnesota now has Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Foligno back in the lineup.
But when Charlie Coyle comes back from his injury – possibly later this month – it will be interesting to see where Erikkson Ek fits into the lineup, if he even sticks in Minnesota. There's a realistic possibility that he's sent down to Iowa so he can play every day.
In the meantime, as long as he stays in the good graces of his coach, it appears Eriksson Ek is here to stay.