Shortly after the Sharks selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, William Eklund made it know his goal was to make the big club out of training camp. What seemed like an incredible longshot at the time no longer does.
It's still very, very early, but through two preseason games, Eklund appears to have a legitimate chance to make the NHL roster at the age of 18. He tallied two assists in San Jose's 4-3 loss to the LA Kings on Tuesday night and leads the Sharks with three preseason points.
Coach Bob Boughner is going to let things play out through the remainder of the exhibition season, but he admitted Tuesday that Eklund certainly is giving the coaching staff something to think about.
"No one's made a decision either way yet," Boughner said, "but if he keeps progressing like this, he may force our hand into making this team."
That would be quite an impressive accomplishment for Eklund, who was ranked as the No. 1 European skater by NHL Central Scouting going into the draft. The most recent Sharks' first-round pick to make the big club out of training camp and remain with the team all season long was none other than Patrick Marleau in 1997.
So, yes, it has been a while. One thing working in Eklund's favor, though, is his prominent role on the power play.
All of his offensive production this preseason has come on the man advantage, where he has been playing on the flank. San Jose Hockey Now's Shen Peng described Eklund's command of the half-wall on the power play as "nothing short of impressive."
"He's making some great decisions with the puck,” Boughner said of Eklund. “I think it’s his hockey instincts. I think it’s his IQ. Certain players just have that ability that you can’t really teach. It’s just a patience and a vision thing."
Now, it's worth noting that Eklund hasn't exactly faced top-tier NHL competition thus far, and the challenge will only get greater from here. But so far, so good for the teenager, who just might be part of the Sharks' present, in addition to their future.