William Eklund

Eklund breaks down his dazzling plays from Sharks' loss to Panthers

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TAMPA, Fla. – Not much has gone right for the 0-6-1 Sharks this year.

But on Tuesday, in a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, William Eklund gave Sharks fans something to get excited about with a dazzling assist on a Fabian Zetterlund goal. That wasn’t his only great play that night.

Now let’s not get too excited – the 2021 No. 7 overall pick is just 21, and he’s still clearly a work in progress. He’s not going to lead the Sharks out of the darkness by himself.

But breaking down some of Eklund’s plays with Eklund himself, you do get the sense that he’s got a special hockey mind.

Straight from Eklund, here’s how he saw it.

The Pass

Along with Mackenzie Blackwood’s 51-save performance and Thomas Bordeleau’s first NHL goal, both against the Colorado Avalanche, this Eklund pass to Zetterlund is arguably the highlight of this Sharks season so far.

The key here? Eklund (No. 72) is waiting on Florida goaltender Anthony Stolarz.

“I'm looking at his head a little bit. I don't want to say too much, but that's what I'm doing,” Eklund said.

When Stolarz turns his head to the left, that’s when Eklund passes to the right to Zetterlund (No. 20).

“I read it pretty well. We practiced it too. I know Eky’s going to give it to me there. Shocked Florida with that pass,” Zetterlund said. “It was a hell of a play by him.”

This strike gave the Sharks a brief 1-0 lead in the second period.

Another Pass

Eklund almost added to this highlight reel later in the same game.

“I just pulled away and saw the puck come in the middle and had a quick look behind my back, saw [Peterson] coming there and tried to hit him,” Eklund said.

A Peterson (No. 24) goal here would’ve tied the game at two apiece.

But score or not, it’s a testament to Eklund’s superior vision.


The Peterson pass was set up by this Eklund one-man breakout.

Typically, when a skater carries the puck behind his own net, he’s trying to build up speed. Eklund, instead, slows it down.

F1 Evan Rodrigues (No. 17), the first Panthers forechecker, tries to pounce. Anton Lundell (No. 15), also on the forecheck, heads off a potential Eklund pass to Matt Benning (No. 5).

Eklund responds by holding the puck and speeding up, leaving both Rodrigues and Lundell in the dust.

But Eklund isn’t relying on pure speed to blow by the forecheckers. It’s this skating maneuver, more than anything, that does it.

“I'm trying to open up my hips a little bit, so I can fake the pass to Benning,” Eklund said. “Pretty much two guys bite on that.”

It’s called the mohawk, a skating maneuver popularized by Sidney Crosby.

Then, from that posture, which draws in the forecheckers as planned, Eklund’s impressive edgework takes over.

Eklund has so much control on that back inside edge of his skate. That’s the deception -- he looks like he’s cornered, then he’s not.

“I get it from that, I push here,” he said. “When I open up my hips like that, I usually get a good push.”

It’s also worth noting when players transition like that, through the mohawk, they’re often going to shoot, or in this case, pass, so the Florida forecheckers aren’t expecting Eklund to take off like he does, either.

“That's something that I try to be better at everyday,” Eklund said about his edgework. “Something that I think is in my game.”

It certainly is. You don’t see that type of skating control and use of the mohawk in this way very often, even in the best hockey league in the world.

Eklund can’t quite finish it off – Dmitry Kulikov (No. 7) gets a stick on his shot – but it’s as good as any play that he made on Tuesday.

“I'm just trying to find space between his legs and shoot,” Eklund said.

Get Carter

“I felt good about it,” Eklund said about his performance. “I feel like I created more chances, created more offense, and I was holding on to the puck. Just playing hockey. It's really that simple.”

And Eklund’s contributions that night weren’t confined just to offense.

It starts with an Eklund turnover – he fails to get the puck out. But the youngster had the best of intentions; he was trying to clear it.

“It's a late time in the shift, you probably just want to get that out. Now, that didn't happen. It's going to happen,” he said.

He gave more credit to Oliver Ekman-Larsson (No. 91) for getting on top of the puck.

But then, matched up against star forward Carter Verhaeghe (No. 23), Eklund kills the play.

“I'm trying to take his [lane], so he doesn't go down [with the puck], with my stick here,” Eklund said, referring to his pokecheck on Verhaeghe. “I just wanted him to not go down [the wall] and if he doesn't go down, he has to go up.”

That keeps Verhaeghe further away from the net.

And when Verhaeghe turns because of Eklund’s forecheck, he’s just a little more vulnerable on his feet.

Eklund recognized this, which he confirmed to San Jose Hockey Now.

How else did the 5-foot-10 Eklund knock down the 6-foot-2 Verhaeghe to take the puck?

It was no accident; instead, a combination of deceptive strength, quick feet and a faster hockey brain.

“Obviously, that [Zetterlund] pass was great,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “There's some things he did offensively that you like, which he's always going to be able to do. But for him to continue to move forward and grow as an NHL player, it's the things we've just touched on, that consistency with his physicality and sticking his nose in there. Being competitive offensively and defensively.”

The tape doesn’t lie: The offensive and defensive flashes are there for Eklund. But like Quinn notes, he’s not a finished product.

“There is a consistency with that,” Quinn said, “that will allow him to continue to be an effective player at this level.”

If Eklund can achieve that consistency, that, coupled with the greatness that he’s capable of, will make him more than just an effective player in the NHL.

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