Mattias Ekholm has come better than advertised for the Edmonton Oilers.
Acquired ahead of this year’s trade deadline in exchange for Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, and first- and fourth-round draft picks, Ekholm fit an obvious need.
He has fit like a glove, according to his head coach.
“We put a lot of work into finding the right person to complement our group,” Jay Woodcroft told reporters in Las Vegas this morning. “We kind of reconfigured our D corps a little bit. Part of it was Bouchard was getting elevated, Barrie went to Nashville, we got Mattias. I think he’s somebody who plays a very, very solid brand of two-way hockey. He has more offence than people think. He makes a good first pass. He’s a big body.
“He’s a serious professional. He’s not somebody who just comes to the rink and waits for direction from the coaching staff. He has a plan for what he wants to accomplish that day.
“He has fit us like a glove.”
Ekholm came to Edmonton with a reputation as a rugged shutdown defenceman that had the ability to contribute offensively. He had 14 points in 21 regular season games and tallied another four points in six playoff games against the Los Angeles Kings.
But it’s his two-way play, on a pairing with 23-year-old blueliner Evan Bouchard, where he has been most valuable. Ekholm ranks third among Oilers defencemen in average ice time in the playoffs (22:08), which includes 2:12 per game while Edmonton is shorthanded.
The veteran defenceman spoke last week about how impressed he was with Oilers fans during the postseason, noting how “cool” it was to see images of packed watch parties outside of Rogers Place.
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But Ekholm was excited to be in Edmonton well before that.
“When I called him after the trade, and Ken Holland had called him after the trade, you could hear the excitement in his voice to come to the city of Edmonton. And I thought that was excellent,” Woodcroft said. “Somebody who really embraces the weather in a northern climate, who wanted to be part of the proud history and tradition of our club… he loves being an Edmonton Oiler.”
"We’re coming up with a plan to beat a really good hockey team in their building."
Coach Woodcroft shares his thoughts ahead of the start of Round 2 vs. the Golden Knights. @Enterprise | #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/EYjMI5Wk1E
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 3, 2023