Ed. Note: From August 21st through September 16th, we will be providing previews for each player for the 2013-14 season. In no specific order, today we continue with Mattias Ekholm…
|Mattias Ekholm’s last 3 seasons|
2012-13 in review:
Last year, Mattias Ekholm played his first full season in North America as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals. The defenseman finished the season with 32 points in 59 games, including 10 goals and 22 assists. He was first in points among Admirals defensemen and also finished sixth on the team in points. While many thought late last season it would be the 23-year-old Swede native to be the defensive call up to Nashville, that honor was given to Victor Bartley.
Ekholm played in only one game for the Predators last season, and it didn’t come until the middle of April when Kevin Klein suffered an injury. In that game, Ekholm saw 16:05 of ice time and didn’t look out of place. Overall, it was a better showing than when Ekholm started the 2011-12 season in Nashville and was quickly transported to Sweden after two rough games. By having a solid season in Milwaukee, Ekholm displayed the potential the Predators have seen in him since they drafted him 102nd overall in 2009.
Burning question for 2013-14: Can Ekholm crack the lineup?
With Nashville selecting Seth Jones No. 4 overall in the draft, the competition on defense has become a lot tighter. With Hal Gill being bought out, the entire bottom defensive pairing is up in the air, though Bartley did earn that three-year contract he signed in the offseason. If, as expected, Jones makes the roster out of camp and Bartley keeps his position in the lineup, only one other top-six defensive spot remains.
The Predators have said Ekholm will spend the season in Nashville. Just as was the case prior to the 2011-12 season when Ekholm and Ryan Ellis fought for a roster spot during camp, this training camp will feature the same two defensemen trying to crack the opening night lineup. Back in 2011, Ekholm beat out Ellis and played in two games for Nashville before being sent back to Sweden for the remainder of the season. Head coach Barry Trotz had called Ekholm horrible after his second game. This could be the last opportunity for both highly touted youngsters to make their mark in the Predators uniform. Both are also restricted free agents come the end of the 2013-14 season.
Ellis’ power play prowess gives him an edge over Ekholm, yet the Swede is a better all-around defenseman. Which skill set do the Predators value more? In all likelihood, Ellis and Ekholm will share ice time as both try to get settled at the NHL level. With the defense corps younger than it was a year ago, Ekholm’s potential ability to succeed on both ends of the ice may work in his favor.