The Florida Panthers picked diminutive, play-making Swedish center Elliot Ekmark in the seventh round (198th overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Ekmark was projected to go somewhere in the middle rounds, so this was good value selection by general manager Bill Zito.
During his draft season, Ekmark put up 12 goals and 26 points in 31 games for Linkoping’s club in the J20 SuperElit league and appeared in four games in the Swedish Hockey League.
In 2020-21, Ekmark suited up in 31 games at the top level and scored his first goal in the SHL, his only point, and also played seven games for the J20 squad, where he excelled against his peers with two goals and ten points.
This past season, Ekmark appeared in a career-high 44 SHL games and produced two goals and an assist to go along with 12 PIM and a -7 rating. He played three games and scored a goal for second-tier Vasterviks IK. He also played seven Junior games and again excelled against his peer group totaling four goals and six points.
Internationally. Ekmark was part of his country’s entry at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored one goal in five games. He took part in the canceled edition of the 2022 World Junior Champioship, appearing in two scoreless games. He was not part of the Swedish team in the rescheduled tournament in August.
According to Elite Prospects 2020 Draft Guide: Ekmark plays a smart and speedy game. He has a high frequency to his stride and can quickly gain speed from a standstill. His shot has a decent release, and he often manages to place the shot well. In his own zone, Ekmark works hard and has a very active stick, which also makes him useful on the penalty kill. He makes some good reads and manages to block some shots.
Ekmark seems to have no trouble producing offense against his peer group in Sweden, but when he moves up to the pro ranks his size (5’9” - 161 lbs) continues to be a hinderance. He’ll have to bulk up, and perhaps shift to the wing when he comes to North America, but this is a player with the tools to play in the middle-six if he reaches his ceiling.
Another season with Linkoping will give Ekmark a chance to up his offensive totals and perhaps snag and entry-level deal with the Cats.