Loui Eriksson is beginning to pick up steam as a high-profile free agent in this market. The scoring Swede has a few things going for him – he’s coming off a strong season and is clearly still a top six scoring winger, something that the Canucks are in the market for, and he’s got history with the Sedin twins, having played with them in international tournaments. Additionally, Jim Benning was an assistant general manager in Boston when the Bruins acquired Eriksson back in 2013.
All of this points to the likelihood that the Canucks will be interested, and that’s likely a good thing. Eriksson brings a lot to the table and could provide some extra scoring punch to a team that is desperate for it, while also being a reliable defensive winger.
As is the norm, Eriksson’s HERO chart uses data from the past three seasons, over which he has been a reliable top six contributor and possession player, with particularly impressive shot suppression statistics.
Working with Corsica.Hockey’s similarity calculator, Eriksson’s 2015-16 campaign shared high degrees of similarity with Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Mark Stone using rate production, relative possession, expected production and time on ice as factors.
Despite the HERO chart demonstrating second line production, he showed last line that he is still a viable candidate to play on a top line: even though he turns 31 next month, Eriksson is coming off of a 30-goal, 63-point season – his highest point total since 2012 and highest goal total since 2009. Just in time for free agency.
Eriksson has a good sized frame, allowing him to get involved in physical battles, though throwing hits is not part of his game. He has strong skating ability, including both speed and agility. His offensive vision and passing ability are also strengths.
He possesses a hard and accurate shot, but doesn’t always need to use it to pile up points. Unafraid to go straight to the net front, Eriksson scores a large portion of his goals from directly in front of the goal mouth, banging in rebounds, or using his high level stick handling ability to maneuver around goaltenders in very close range.
Eriksson’s defensive acumen is often praised – he’s a lauded two-way winger, another trait that has shown to work very well with the Sedin twins in the past. This praise is backed up by the numbers – his possession numbers are in the black year after year, constantly owing to excellent numbers of the suppression side of the equation.
If the Canucks are truly looking to add a top six scoring winger this off-season, then Loui Eriksson is an excellent option. He’s coming off a strong year, and even if his numbers regress a little bit, he’s still a viable top six option. He plays a 200-foot game, stick handles very well in traffic and gets a good portion of his goals by knocking in loose pucks just outside of the crease. In other words, he’s a prime candidate to play with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and it just so happens that they already have some built in chemistry together, owing to some previous international tournaments. The following video is an example of said chemistry, as the Sedins and Eriksson account for all three goals in this highlight pack.
Eriksson is finishing up a deal that paid an average of $4.25 million per annum over the past six year, including $4.5 million in salary last year. Coming off of a 30-goal season, he’ll likely be looking for a raise, and some term. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker – if the Canucks are serious about pursuing these types of pedigreed top six players, this is the realm they’ll be working in.
While not everyone will agree with me, I am one of those in the camp that believes the Canucks should be signing a top six scoring winger, and Eriksson fits that bill to a tee. He has a history with the Canucks top line forwards, as well as with the general manager and assistant general manager – that’s a lot of history. Beyond that, he has a number of attributes that this management regime likes to harp on – he plays a two-way game, he goes hard to the net, and he knows how to score goals. It seems like a match made in heaven.
The question that remains is, how much is Jim Benning willing to pay for Eriksson’s services? It will probably be a lot, and that may or may not be a wise gamble depending on the length of the deal. He’ll be 31 at training camp, and too long of a contract will have the potential to be an anchor at the end, as they often do. However, as a player that could fill a production void while the new core continues to develop, I think he could be a pretty solid fit on the Vancouver roster.