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Oilers notebook: ‘F–k Ekholm,’ says anonymous NHL player of The Athletic ranking Mattias Ekholm over Flames’ Rasmus Andersson

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
Suspended for four games and about to miss the Heritage Classic for a late hit delivered last week, Rasmus Andersson has found himself back in the headlines.
This time, however, it’s in thanks to some curious choice comments from an anonymous NHL player lashing out over The Athletic ranking Edmonton Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm over the Calgary Flames’ Andersson.
In September, The Athletic put out a massive ranking list, diving into 125 of the NHL’s top players. The rankings put players into four tiers: MVP, franchise, all-star and top-line and when it came to defencemen, a few Alberta rearguards made the list. First and foremost was Ekholm, who slotted in the all-star tier, and that of the Flames’ MacKenzie Weegar, who was in the same tier. In the top-line tier, players from both teams were named: Evan Bouchard, Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin.
In another article by the same outlet released Tuesday, a “handful” of anonymous NHL’ers were polled for their thoughts on some of the rankings. One player clearly wasn’t a fan of Ekholm slotting in above Andersson.
“Ekholm before (Rasmus Andersson)? F–k Ekholm,” the anonymous player said.
“He’s in All-Star tier? Oh my god … Can I get out of here? He’s not good. He’s not that good. He shouldn’t even be on this list in any tier. He’s good defensively. But come on, All-Star tier?”

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The comments are curious, to say the least. Ekholm has been widely considered one of the NHL’s more underrated defencemen given not only the fact he played down the depth chart on a Nashville Predators team that, for years, was chaulked full of high-end defensive talents, but also given the breakout he’s seen in Edmonton.
While the same size of 25 games in Oilers’ threads is small, his points per game rate jumped from 0.37 with Nashville, all the way up to .56 points per game in Edmonton. His underlying numbers have climbed, too, from being around the 50 percent mark in terms of 5v5 shot attempt share and expected goal share during his tenure in Nashville, all the way up to the mid-50’s in both categories.
Andersson, meanwhile, has been a fine defencemen in his own right. He’s scored .43 points per game over his eight-year career, and over the last two full seasons, has seen similar increases in terms of his underlying numbers as had Ekholm.
Looking at hockeyviz.com’s synthetic goal charts, however, dispute that anonymous NHL’ers assesment. While Andersson has teetered between being a second pair, and top pair defenceman, Ekholm has been a first pairing — and better — over the course of his career.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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