Round one of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft opened with the lottery-winning Buffalo Sabres taking the consensus first-overall talent, defender Owen Power. The Seattle Kraken followed up with their first-ever draft pick in center Matty Beniers. After that, things could go a number of ways.
Here’s how the draft board fell before the Sharks were on the clock:
1. Buffalo Sabres — Owen Power, D
2. Seattle Kraken — Matty Beniers, C
3. Anaheim Ducks — Mason McTavish, C
4. New Jersey Devils — Luke Hughes, D
5. Columbus Blue Jackets — Kent Johnson, C
6. Detroit Red Wings — Simon Edvinsson, D
With the seventh-overall pick, the Sharks selected left winger William Eklund from Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Hockey League.
Eklund, 18, was ranked the top European skater by NHL Central Scouting. His lowest pre-draft ranking was seventh and it was expected that he would not be available to the Sharks without potentially trading up. In our own SB Nation Mock Draft, Eklund went to the Blue Jackets at fifth-overall.
However, the Anaheim Ducks took a bit of a risk by snagging forward Mason McTavish and the Blue Jackets took forward Kent Johnson. The Detroit Red Wings took a defender in Simon Edvinsson, leaving Eklund as an obvious choice for the Sharks.
In a draft without many players who look NHL-ready, or even near NHL-ready, William Eklund has spent the last two seasons in the top Swedish men’s league and he has thrived. In 40 games with Djurgårdens IF last season, Eklund led scoring in under-19 players across the league with 11 goals and 12 assists. He was also named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Between a COVID diagnosis and an emergency appendectomy last year, Eklund was held back from participating in the 2021 World Juniors Championship, as well as missing three weeks of the SHL season. Healthy, he’s on track to tear up the league next year.
Eklund is an exceptional hockey talent when it comes to creating offense. Able to play at center or wing, his vision is solid, though his speed is somewhat lacking. He’ll need to work on his skating before joining the Sharks.
The consensus among scouts is that this is the forward in the draft who can be an impact player in the NHL, and maybe sooner rather than later. At seventh overall, he becomes an even bigger steal for the Sharks, who may have just claimed a top-three talent.
The importance of this selection may be even greater, however, as fans’ confidence in Doug Wilson and Doug Wilson Jr. certainly improved by not overthinking this pick. The pressure to get a high-end talent with this selection was intense, and they took the absolute best player available, while getting lucky enough that other general managers reached for their guys.
Now check out this cutie yelling “booyah!” when he gets drafted:
Yeah, he’ll fit right in. Welcome to San Jose, William!