Among a core of top-level defenders, Nashville Predators’ Mattias Ekholm is often overlooked. But, he is crucial to the team.
The 2017-2018 season was a remarkable one for Nashville Predators defenseman, Mattias Ekholm. He proved to be valuable on special teams, improved on offense, and handled top-line opposition in both the regular season and playoffs. The coaching staff trusts Ekholm on defense, and this season he showed us why.
Mattias Ekholm started the year on a high note, being named an alternate captain. Throughout the season, his play on the ice proved to be reliable and valuable. He is a well-rounded player with a bit of a fiery attitude, but his defense is far and away the prized aspect of his game. Looking at the opposition he played against, Ekholm logged the most minutes on ice with Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. After that you see names like Zucker, Staal, MacKinnon, and Kane–all high-scoring threats from the Central Division. Mattias Ekholm was called upon to stop those top-line opponents.
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With a Corsi-for of roughly 52%, Ekholm stepped up to the challenge. Puck possession was in his favor. The high-danger scoring chances against swayed in the opposition’s advantage with Ekholm on the ice. However, the actual goals scored against were limited, and that matters most. Only 41 high-danger goals were allowed when Ekholm was playing, compared to 53 that were scored for the Predators.
When the playoffs rolled around, it was much the same. Ekholm took the ice when the top lines played. The Corsi percentage, shots, and scoring chances all tilted the Nashville Predators way when Ekholm was skating.
Bigger Role on Special Teams
The 2017-2018 season showed an increased role on special teams for Mattias Ekholm. His time on ice peaked on both the power play and penalty kill. He scored five goals with a man advantage which was half of his season total, and he logged 151 minutes. His 13 points on the power play were good for eighth most on the Nashville
Predators. In 236 minutes on the penalty kill, only 12 goals were scored against. Both minutes were new career highs, and it shows the team has faith in Mattias in all aspects of play.
A Step Up on Offense
Known for his standout defense, Mattias Ekholm showed improvement on offense this year. He set career highs in goals and shots. His 135 shots on goal were 7th on the team and were more than the likes of Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris. The scoring chances took a dip from recent years. He had 12 high-danger chances compared to 18 and 24 the past two years. However, also in comparison, P.K. Subban had three such chances.
It’s clear Ekholm can create scoring chances, and he’s reached his comfort zone on offense. Defense, though, is his strong suit as he was called upon to stop some big-name opponents. Half of his point total came on the power play so we know that outside of special teams his offense isn’t as reliable, or necessary for that matter. Mattias Ekholm’s style of play may get overshadowed by some of his fellow defenseman, but the Nashville Predators coaching staff trusts Mattias Ekholm in any situation. Grade: A