Tyler Graovac

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Looking to make the leap: Joel Eriksson Ek

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This post is part of Wild Day on PHT…

There’s no shortage of talented young prospects in the Wild organization — Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek, to name a few.

But in terms of being ready to make the leap, one stands out.

Eriksson Ek, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (20th overall) at the 2015 draft, and made his NHL debut last season by scoring seven points in 15 games, while appearing in three postseason contests. That came during a year in which he made the Wild out of training camp, stuck around for a month before being returned to his native Sweden, then came back to Minnesota late in the year, making his Stanley Cup playoff debut in the process.

An exciting year, sure, but one with quite a bit of upheaval.

Now Eriksson Ek’s looking to stick in one place.

That, of course, would be in North America, preferably in Minnesota rather than Iowa. And it sounds like there’s a good chance of that happening, given Eriksson Ek’s performance in ’16-17 alleviated many of the club’s concerns about his game translating to the NHL.

“His small ice game is already so good,” Fletcher said last season, per the Star-Tribune. “Usually with Europeans, a lot of them have to acclimate to the smaller ice and have to learn how to be effective playing on the smaller ice. Joel’s already a very good small ice player.”

It doesn’t seem like playing surface really matters to Eriksson Ek. Consider what he accomplished last year. With SHL club Farjestads, he had 16 points in 26 games, and six in seven playoff contests. With Sweden at the World Juniors, he captained the club and had nine points in seven games. With Sweden at the World Hockey Championship, he had three points in 10 games en route to a gold medal win over Canada.

Yet even after all that success, there’s still an undeniably steep learning curve ahead. Eriksson Ek played limited and sheltered minutes last season, cracking the 12-minute plateau in just three of his 15 games (he was used sparingly in the postseason as well, skating just 22:44 total in the series versus St. Louis).

But that might change, as head coach Bruce Boudreau no longer has a wealth of options down the middle.

Last season, Boudreau didn’t have to throw Eriksson Ek into uncomfortable positions, because he had a host of veteran centers to fill ’em: Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Erik Haula, Martin Hanzal, Charlie Coyle and Tyler Graovac all logged extensive minutes.

That depth is no longer there. Hanzal signed in Dallas, Haula was taken by Vegas at the expansion draft, and Graovac was traded to Washington.

As such, it certainly seems like Fletcher and company have opened up a spot for Eriksson Ek this fall.

Now we wait to see if grabs it.

Mumps hit Wild as Parise, Pominville will not play vs. Kings

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Add the Minnesota Wild to the unsettling pattern of teams affected by mumps this season.

In their case, two significant players will at least miss Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (on NBCSN, by the way): Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been sidelined with that condition.

It’s not clear how much time they might miss nor is it clear if anyone else on the team is dealing with symptoms. Here’s a release via the Wild:

Members of the organization that have symptoms are being tested immediately and placed in isolation for a five-day period. Team doctors recently provided players and staff an MMR vaccination and the organization will continue to work closely with the NHL, NHLPA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent further infection. 

Uh oh.

Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are set to make their debuts tonight. Their presence could be especially welcome if this becomes a more widespread issue for Minnesota. (You may remember the Wild dealing with an outbreak in 2014, too.)

Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder are expected to be in Minnesota’s lineup tonight, according to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. Russo indicates that assistant coach Scott Stevens may also be dealing with mumps.

The Wild have options in search for forward depth

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Chuck Fletcher does not disagree with the notion that his Minnesota Wild could stand to improve their forward depth ahead of next week’s trade deadline.

“I think that’s fair,” the GM told the Star-Tribune. “I think we’ve got more unproven depth up front than we do on defense. … That’s why you’re always talking to see if somebody you can get can fit in and contribute and upgrade your depth. If you can do that, I think you need to do that.”

It is no surprise, then, to hear that the Wild have interest in Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen. It is not known if Minnesota is on Hansen’s eight-team trade list, but adding the speedy and versatile forward would allow Charlie Coyle to move from right wing to center, which in turn would push Erik Haula down to center the fourth line, while pushing the struggling Tyler Graovac out of the lineup entirely.

If not Hansen, the Wild could look at adding Patrick Eaves from Dallas or Radim Vrbata from Arizona. Both Eaves and Vrbata are pending UFAs. Hansen is signed through next season for a cap hit of $2.5 million.

Graovac assigned to AHL, as Wild look for more from fourth line

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Tyler Graovac has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Iowa.

It’s good news for the Minnesota Wild, who didn’t want to lose the 23-year-old center for nothing, even if he had been struggling.

Yesterday, the Wild recalled forwards Zack Mitchell and Alex Tuch, with GM Chuck Fletcher saying the team needs more out of its fourth line, which had been comprised of Graovac, Jordan Schroeder, and Chris Stewart.

“A fourth line like that, they can’t play the way that they have been playing,” Fletcher said, per the Star Tribune. “They have to win more battles and turn fewer pucks over. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s not all Graovac certainly. I think all three of them have slipped in the last couple weeks and we have to try to get a better recipe for what we want to do with that line.”

Tonight against Anaheim, the fourth line will be centered by Erik Haula, flanked by Stewart and Mitchell. Schroeder is expected to be a healthy scratch.

Tuch, meanwhile, will skate on the top line with Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal, and Charlie Coyle will center the third line between Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.

Wild place Graovac on waivers, recall two forwards from AHL

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The Minnesota Wild have placed 23-year-old center Tyler Graovac on waivers.

The club has also recalled forwards Zack Mitchell and Alex Tuch from AHL Iowa and placed defenseman Jonas Brodin on injured reserve with a fractured finger.

Graovac may not make it through waivers. The former seventh-round draft pick is signed through next season with an affordable cap hit of just $625,000. He has six goals and no assists in 45 games for the Wild this season.

But the Wild will risk it anyway. As noted by Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, head coach Bruce Boudreau “clearly wants Charlie Coyle playing center after yesterday’s win over Detroit (one goal, five assists now in his center shifts the past four games) and Graovac, frankly, has been too inconsistent for everybody’s liking in this fourth-line role.”

With Coyle at center, Erik Haula can take Graovac’s spot in the middle of the fourth line. Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu are the two other centers.