When the Chicago Blackhawks traded Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators earlier this year, the pick haul alone was enough to give Chicago the value they sought. And it was easy enough to look at Victor Ejdsell as an afterthought.
A first-round and fourth-round pick in exchange for Hartman and a fifth-round pick meant that the Blackhawks had already turned a profit after selecting him with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. However, it’s Ejdsell who has the ability to truly take this deal over the top.
Hartman proved to be a valuable NHL forward after a 19-goal rookie campaign last season. He wasn’t as productive in his second year in the league, but that might have to do with the Blackhawks’ troubles more than anything.
Sure enough, he’s scored 6 points in 14 games for the Predators. And the idea that he can continue to be productive for a division rival leaves the possibility that this trade could revisit and haunt them regularly.
That’s where Ejdsell comes in. If he can recognize the top-9 potential so many scouts think he carries quickly, he’ll help ease the loss of a productive forward who worked well at times with the team’s stars.
Ejdsell is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with the versatility to make an impact as either a center or as a winger. The left-handed shooter has surprisingly deft hands and has shown scoring touch around the net.
He doesn’t skate particularly well and isn’t as physical as Hartman despite his towering size, but that’s not to say his stature isn’t useful. Ejdsell will be a valuable screener when posted up in front of the net and he already has the skill to capitalize on anything leftover around the crease.
That comfortable floor gives him NHL value that the Blackhawks are already interested in exploring, calling him up on Sunday after just two games in Rockford following the completion of his SHL season.
And despite the fact he was on the ice for all three goals in the loss to San Jose on Monday, he logged three shots and a couple of hits while winning 6-of-11 faceoffs in 17:25 of ice time and generally played pretty well while centering Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad.
But it’s the potential for him to further develop that already has him ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the organization according to Scott Powers of The Athletic.
At 22, he’s older than most “prospects.” However, he’s been rapidly ascending in the last calendar year after an MVP season in the Swedish second league. Ejdsell also is coming off the heels of a big first season in the SHL, racking up 20 goals and 14 assists in 50 regular-season games.
To go from middling prospect in the Swedish minors to one of the league’s best players in such a short timeframe is the driving force behind the belief he can become a fixture in the lineup as soon as next season. That doesn’t exactly replace what was lost in Hartman, but it’s a pretty solid start and he certainly has 15-20 goal potential.
More importantly, Ejdsell will have a year left on his entry-level contract at a controlled cost. In the event that he lives up to or exceeds their expectations, they should be able to use an RFA tender to protect him and ensure they’d at least get compensation if someone were to extend an offer to lure him away.
He might not be a star. But when you pick as often at the end of the draft as the Blackhawks have, you’re not going to have a farm system loaded with top-line forwards and defensemen. That’s what makes finding players like Ejdsell — somewhat under-the-radar prospects in their early-20s on entry-level contracts — such a critical exercise for Stan Bowman.
With the amount of cap space they have tied into their core, the Blackhawks need waves of players like Ejdsell to fill out their NHL roster. And that’s traditionally been what Bowman does best. It’s a major reason why they’ve had sustained success.
So you certainly have to trust his assessment (even in lean years like this) when he says, “He’s not a throw-in, he’s a very talented center, big kid about 6-foot-5, highly-skilled player.”
If Ejdsell can give you two years of NHL-caliber productivity as a regular on the third or even fourth line, it puts the Blackhawks in a position where they can use the assets they returned for Hartman to help solve their blue-line issues. If he’s even better than that, it tilts the scales even further in their favor.