They didn’t have a car, so they did a lot of walking.
Joel Eriksson Ek and Gustav Bouramman — two young Swedes taking in the sights. “We did take the light rail,” Eriksson Ek said. “We went to the Mall of America, to Minneapolis. Just took a look around the Twin Cities. It looks good. I like it.”
He hopes to return sooner than later.
Both Eriksson Ek and Bouramman were chosen by the Wild in last month’s NHL draft. Eriksson Ek was taken in the first round, 20th overall. He and Bouramman, selected in the seventh round, went from the draft to Minnesota, arriving more than a week ago. For Eriksson Ek, it gave him plenty of time to get an impression of the cities before he went to work trying to make more of an impression on the Wild. He was one of the headliners in the team’s developmental camp, which began Thursday and continues Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center that is open to the public.
Here’s what fans will see if they attend that scrimmage and watch the team’s latest top draft pick:
A tall, hard-working center who has a good work ethic, is strong at both ends of the rink and possesses a heavy shot.
Also, an 18-year old who knows he has a lot of work left to do.
“I need to be stronger,” said Eriksson Ek, who has only 180 pounds on his 6-2 frame. “I need to work on my first steps. I need work on everything, but those two things, that’s the most important.”
Expect all that to happen rather quickly.
A native of Karlstad, he started playing for the junior team of the local Farjestad club. But, after scoring 21 goals in 25 games — and with the big club struggling a bit — Eriksson Ek was called up to the Farjestads, the senior team that plays in the top Swedish league. It was the same club his father, Clas Eriksson, had played 13 seasons four and also the former club of current Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin. Eriksson Ek — the Ek comes from his mother’s last name — scored four goals in 34 games, getting more responsibility as the season went on. He also played well in the World Under 18 hockey championships, improving his draft stock.
Eriksson Ek is expected to start the upcoming season with Farjestads. As Brent Flahr, Wild assistant general manager, said, his NHL debut is one or more years away. The organization wants him to just soak in the experience during this camp.
“We see some of these kids play on big stages, in big tournaments, then when you get ’em over here you realize they’re still so young,” Flahr said. “You want to get ’em in here, let ’em see Minnesota, see the rink, meet the coaches. As a young player, it’s a big deal, it can be a little overwhelming.”
All the prospects get some drills to work on, advice on training and nutrition. The Wild hopes the experience will help Eriksson Ek take the next step in the coming season. “Hopefully he’ll have a big year for Farjestads,” Flahr said. “Hopefully he’ll be on the national teams. And when he’s ready he can come in here and challenge for a spot, whether it’s one, two or three years from now.”
Eriksson Ek is fine with that. He’s looking forward to getting to know Brodin when he returns to Sweden to train for the upcoming season. He has gotten to know his future home a little better over the last week.
“I just want to learn what it’s like here,” he said. “I will do my best to be a better player, and we’ll see how things work out.”