The Wild should have taken Brock Boeser.
This assertion from the majority never came to a hault, but rather became silent for an extended period of time. The silence disappeared as the Wild faced the Canucks in the qualifying round and were ultimately defeated in a series that they were statistically favoured to win, according to several different models. Brock Boeser advanced, Joel Eriksson Ek packed his bags as he prepared to leave the bursted bubble as a result of the loss to Vancouver.
In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Wild selected the Swedish centerman with the 20th overall pick, while the Canucks selected Brock Boeser, a Minnesota native, just three picks later. To be fair, drafting is part luck, there is too much uncertainty regarding where players fall.
Is the assertion true? Did the Wild make the wrong selection?
These two players have completely different skill sets and approach the game in a different manner. Eriksson Ek, 23, is known for his defensive play, forechecking and tenacity. His forte includes aggitating the opposition and getting under the skin of those players. Boeser is known for his offensive contributions, most notably, his tantalizing shot.
Thus far, Eriksson Ek has accumulated 24 goals and 42 assists for 66 points. He’s accumulated these numbers through 210 games played. On the other hand, Boeser has recorded 75 goals along with 86 assists in 197 games. He’s done so for 161 points.
Likewise, according to Evolving Hockey’s wins above replacement, which takes into accounts all aspects of the game, Boeser has the edge by 2.4 wins so far in his career. Eriksson Ek has emerged as one of the best centreman in the NHL, but still taking that into account, he has provided less value than Boeser.
Eriksson Ek is a strong defensive player, but still has room for improvement offensively. He is not a good offensive player, but flies under the radar at times with his hard hitting and forechecking style. Despite being injury prone, Brock Boeser has provided immense value for the Canucks.
Overall, he has outperformed his expected goals by a wide margin over the past three years. This would be due to his shot. Only players with elite goal scoring ability can create this pattern of results.
The biggest edge between these two is Boeser’s ability to finish. Particularly, his wrist and snap shots. Using a new visual from HockeyViz, Boeser has converted on just over 16 more goals than expected thus far in his career.
This is when he shoots a wrist or snap shot. Most of this is generated near the net and in the slot which is more than likely why he has such a high rate of goals. He has the recipe of goal scoring success — shot quality, shot volume and shot location.
There is a distinct and decisive difference in the defensive game between Eriksson Ek and Boeser. With that being said, the Canucks were better defensively with Boeser on the ice this season. He was third on the Canucks in terms of expected goals against per hour while also ranking fourth in corsi against per hour.
Likewise, with Boeser on the ice, the opposition generated a less volume of shots against the Canucks. They allowed less shots than league average around the net and in the slot with him on the ice, according to HockeyViz.
While neither player is dominant in transition, Boeser has the significant edge in this area. Boeser is above the 50th percentile in entries and exits in a three year span from 2016-19. Eriksson Ek is not a good player in transition which is a concerning stat for a hopeful top-six center. He ranks under the 20th percentile in entries and exits during the same span.
Eriksson Ek has the decisive advantage regarding deployment against competition. According to PuckIQ, Eriksson Ek played 39.8 percent of his time on ice against elite competition, whereas, Boeser played 31.1 percent. Both players are trusted by their coaches, shown by their ice time against elite caliber players. It is also important to note that Boeser has a 63.4 offensive zone start percentage. He is heavily deployed by Vancouver in the offensive zone.
The Bottom Line
Eriksson Ek is a strong player defensively and annoys the opposition. He is a player that a coach can deploy in high-stress situations and most importantly, he is dependable. There is no doubt he was a quality pick and will become a solid second line center.
It is difficult to say it was a mistake since Erikkson Ek has emerged as such a dominant defensive force. Boeser is such a great shooter and is a strong first-line winger. The harsh reality is that Boeser is the better player overall and the Minnesota Wild should have taken him.
All Data Via NHL.com, Hockey-Reference, Evolving-Hockey, Hockey-Viz, A3Z Comparison Tool (Corey Sznajder) and PuckIQ.