With only the second line having any kind of predictability, there looks to be a lot of open space for the younger crop of players in the bottom six. One of the more intriguing options is the massive Victor Ejdsell, who came over in the Hartman trade last year. Though he’s not likely to serve as a savior for anyone, he’s young, large, and has a big shot, so at least he’s something to look forward to.
6 GP – 0 G, 1 A
43.3 CF%, 60.0 oZS%
Avg. TOI 13:19
A Brief History: Ejdsell is a curious combination of size and skill rarely seen around these parts. When Nashville shipped him over, his 6’5”, 214 lb. frame screamed, “Annette Frontpresence!” But Ejdsell, for all his largeness, has never been a plop-in-front-of-the-net guy. He came up at the end of the year for a cup of coffee, and outside of a surprisingly strong first game, which found him centering Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane, he looked lost and timid playing primarily between Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Sikura in his final five games with the big club.
Last year’s AHL playoffs is where Ejdsell shined, though. In 13 games, he scored 12 points (seven goals, five assists), including two series-clinching goals against the Chicago Wolves and Manitoba Moose. The biggest question mark on Ejdsell’s ledger was whether he could skate in stride, both based on his size and adjustment from the larger European ice. According to Jon Fromi, he never looked lost on the ice in terms of skating while with the IceHogs. Coupled with his booming shot and strong on-ice vision, Ejdsell has potential to come into his own this year.
The question will be where can Ejdsell play? He came over as a center, but there’s a bit of a logjam for the Hawks at center, and that’s not necessarily because of depth. With Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov, and Marcus Kruger all pretty much chiseled in as your centers, there’s not much Ejdsell can provide there (read: he won’t have an opportunity to provide there).
Fortunately, between the AHL playoffs, training camp, and preseason, Ejdsell has found himself on the wing more often, which likely will suit a man of his significant carriage more fittingly. Whereas the scouting report has often said that Ejdsell projects as a playmaker, given the heat on his wrist shot, he might find additional success pounding shots off of passes rather than making passes himself. Moving Ejdsell to the wing can also cover a bit for any holes in his skating and defense, which he projects to have based solely on his size and inexperience.
It Was the Best of Times: Best-case scenario sees Ejdsell blossom not as simply a winger but as a winger on his off-wing. A workable combination of DeBrincat–Toews–Ejdsell brings a ton of scoring potential to the de facto top line. For this to happen is to expect probably too much from Ejdsell. Because he’s not a crash-the-net type, Ejdsell would be responsible for making plays while Toews went to get the puck below the goal line. You’d also need to expect Ejdsell to improve on his backchecking skills, which might also be asking too much based on the fact that he’s probably never going to be anything more than an average skater.
But if everything went perfectly, a combination of Ejdsell’s instinctive playmaking abilities, big shot, and talented linemates could make Ejdsell a dangerous wild card on the top line. It would also solve the “Toews needs to score more” problem, since that onus would fall mostly on DeBrincat as a sniper and Ejdsell as a playmaker/shot pounder, leaving Toews to take the Marian Hossa two-way player responsibilities.
Finally, Ejdsell steps up as a key contributor on the power play. He found time on the PP in the AHL and did decently, and he parlays that potential into success on the second unit with Erik Gustafsson.
It Was the BLURST of Times: Ejdsell doesn’t make the team at all because his skating simply isn’t up to snuff. This would mean he would have to be a worse skater than Anisimov, which is almost inconceivable. He toils in the AHL all year and can never put it together. This opens the door for a third line of Kunitz–Anisimov–Andreas Martinsen, which is not a line that teams that make the playoffs have.
Prediction: Ejdsell breaks camp as a third-line winger next to Anisimov and Sikura. When Quenneville finally comes to terms with the fact that Chris Kunitz is not a first liner, Ejdsell gets a shot next to Toews and DeBrincat. He becomes a 15-goal scorer, three of which come on the power play with Gustafsson and Kane, and works well as a setup man for DeBrincat, racking up 40–45 points on the year. His defense is never outstanding, but it gradually improves as he learns his angles and how to use his length as a weapon when he feet aren’t up to the task.
I’m bullish on Ejdsell’s ability to take the leap forward this year. But I think that unlocking Ejdsell’s potential is tied to playing him on the RW with DeBrincat on LW, because as teams realize that they have to focus on DeBrincat’s ability to snipe, it will leave Ejdsell with more space to capitalize on his hard shot, especially his wrister. Playing Ejdsell on the right side will open up those shot opportunities nicely.
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