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The Ekholm Factor

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Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
8 months ago
When you consider Mattias Ekholm was born halfway around the globe in Borlange, Sweden on May 24, 1990, the very same day the Edmonton Oilers beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 to win their fifth Stanley Cup, it would’ve been fitting for him to start what is now a 740-game NHL career right here in Edmonton.
It wasn’t meant to be, but the six-foot-four, 215-pound Swede is here now. In 21 regular season games in Oilers silks and 12 more in the playoffs after being acquired from Nashville in a trade for Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, and a draft pick, suffice to say Oilers’ fans are looking forward to what comes next.
Ekholm, 33, didn’t waste any time becoming a difference-maker on Edmonton’s blueline alongside Evan Bouchard, and he did it while trying to settle himself and his family, wife Ida, and children Mya and William, into Edmonton after 12 years in Music City. The couple welcomed son Leon to the family in July.
At the bottom line, the Oilers went 18-2-1 down the stretch after Ekholm’s debut on March 1. The big Swede made an impact from the get-go, so I wonder – like I did yesterday with Zach Hyman – what 2023-24 might look like for Ekholm. He’s had the summer to catch his breath and he’s got three years remaining on his contract. I’m guessing a lot of you are contemplating the same thing.

READY TO RUMBLE

Mar 30, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Mattias Ekholm (14) and Los Angeles Kings forward Blake Lizotte (46) battle for a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s a process and you don’t even think about it because when you’re in the hockey season you don’t have any time at all to even think about it, so you just put it on hold, and now is the time to deal with that kind of stuff,” Ekholm said after the season ended. “That whole move and getting the kids into a new school and all that has probably been the biggest challenge.”
Ekholm was productive in his 21 games, scoring 4-10-14. Not bad for a D-man who had a career-high 8-36-44 in 2018-19, his only season with 40 points or better. He was a plus-28, a statistic that only scratches the surface. Simply put, when it’s time to take the puck, Ekholm takes the puck. When it’s time to take the man, he takes the man. He knows where he needs to be and when he needs to be there. Ekholm had a big-time impact on Bouchard, who also went supernova on the PP with Barrie gone.
“When I got here, you could tell right away he’s just scratching the surface of his potential and what he can be,” Ekholm said about Bouchard in May.
“I think he’s having a really big come-out party here right now where he’s playing tremendous every night. The most impressive thing I find with his game is that offensively, he has everything you need, but it’s not at a cost of the defensive side.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Mattias fits our team like a glove,” coach Jay Woodcroft said two weeks after Ekholm arrived. “He’s exactly what our team needed. He’s a big, shutdown defender that has some offence to him and what he has is veteran poise and presence . . . he’s had a very good effect on Evan and when he’s on the ice, his team feels good about it, and his coaching staff does too.”
It’s been a case of better late than never for Ekholm, born on the day the Oilers last sipped suds from the Stanley Cup. Fans are no doubt looking forward to more of the same.

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