In need of a pick-me-up, the Wild brought Joel Eriksson Ek back from the Swedish Elite League now that his season with Farjestad is complete, hoping the young forward can supply a boost during its final six regular-season games and playoffs.
After a long travel day originating from Karlstad, Sweden, the 20-year-old arrived Tuesday night and will practice Wednesday.
“He can give us a little shot in the arm,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “To add another body that can bring some energy will be a good thing. He was with us for training camp, he made our team, he spent several weeks here, he knows our system, he knows the coaches and players.
“This isn’t like bringing in somebody from the outfield. This is bringing back a teammate that’s been part of it.”
Eriksson Ek made his NHL debut Oct. 22 at New Jersey. He scored, had a three-assist game three nights later in Boston and scored the winning goal in Buffalo after that.But the 2015 first-round pick went without a point his next five games. The team decided instead of playing him a 10th game, which would have burned the first year of his three-year deal, it’d be better for his development to return him to Sweden, where he could play a prominent role for Farjestad and captain Sweden in the world junior championships.
He had six goals and three assists in seven games at world juniors and eight goals and eight assists in 26 regular-season games and six points in seven playoff games for Farjestad.
“If he wasn’t 19 years old, we probably would have kept him, but we thought sending him back was the right thing to do,” Fletcher said. “We just think he’s further down the path.”
Eriksson Ek can play center or wing, and Fletcher hopes he can help a struggling team. He will burn that first year once he plays a game.
“Once you get past the trade deadline, you’re limited in things you can do,” Fletcher said. “He’s an important part of our future, but he’s also a good player in the present.”
Hanzal not a concern
Fletcher and coach Bruce Boudreau don’t buy into the notion that Martin Hanzal’s acquisition has slowed the Wild.
“I think he’s been one of our better players since he’s been here. In fact, a couple games we won, we wouldn’t have won had he not been here,” Fletcher said. “Part of the reason we made the move is we thought our game was slipping during that homestand in February. We thought things were getting away from us. To me we clearly needed another top-nine forward.
“I don’t think [our struggles] has anything to do with Martin Hanzal. [Eric] Staal’s clearly been our best offensive player the last few weeks, but Hanzal’s been as good as anybody.”
Added Boudreau, “I think Marty’s done everything. He’s contributed offensively, and he’s been really good on the penalty kill. Granted, he is a little slower, but he’s always in the right position.”
Hanzal, who had a goal and assist Tuesday against Washington, has two goals and seven assists in 14 games. The Wild is 5-7-2 in those games.
• The Wild has made a two-year, entry-level contract offer to Lakeville native Justin Kloos, who captained the Gophers the past two seasons. Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose are also after the 2012 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, who had 63 goals and 150 points in 155 collegiate games.
• Boston University sophomore Jordan Greenway, who has exams this week, has still not decided if he’s ready to turn pro. Fletcher has talked to Greenway’s adviser and plans to soon talk with Greenway and Terriers coach David Quinn.
• Luke Kunin, the Wild’s 2016 first-round draft pick, recorded his first professional hat trick in a 4-0 Iowa win over Rockford.