William Eklund showed a lot of potential in the nine games he played for the Sharks this season, but San Jose made the difficult decision to send the No. 7 overall pick back to Sweden, ensuring they still have three years left on his rookie contract starting in 2022-23.
When the decision was made to re-assigned Eklund back to his Swedish Hockey League club, Djurgardens IF, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the 19-year-old what he wanted to see out of him in the SHL.
"He wants me to mature even more in my game," Eklund told NBC Sports Bay Area's Brodie Brazil. "He wanted me to get back and hopefully play good in the Swedish League, getting some big minutes. He wanted me to play [a lot] so I can get better."
Eklund didn't score a goal during his nine games with the Sharks, but he did rack up four assists and left an impression on his teammates.
"Very good player, going to be an elite player in this league," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of Eklund. "It's tough to play in this league at 18, 19, and he's shown that he can do it, so very impressive, it isn't easy what he's doing, he's playing top-six minutes and he's playing against the other team's top two lines every night. So nothing but credit to him, he's showed up and proven that he can play in the NHL."
In a statement after the re-assigning, Wilson admitted the decision was difficult.
"This was one of the toughest decisions we have had to make," Wilson said. "William's tremendous skill and vision have been evident since his participation in our rookie tournament in September. In his nine NHL games as a teenager, he has shown that he is going to be a special player in this league but ultimately, we feel it is in the best interest of his long-term development to return to Sweden and continue to work on becoming the dominant player we know he can be."
Eklund has a bright future and the Sharks hope he will make the most of his time in the SHL and arrive in San Jose ready to be an integral part of next season's team.