Height Advantage

Know Your Bobcat – Ian Ecklund

Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features Bobcat newcomer Ian Ecklund.

Name: Ian Ecklund

Position: Forward

Hometown: Proctor, MN

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 180 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Alexandria Blizzard

2012-13 Stats: 48 GP, 33 G, 38 A, 71 PTS, +44, 72 PIM, 5 PPG, 1 SHG, 9 GWG

Favorite Movie: Miracle

Favorite Food: Steak

Highlight of 2012-13: “Coming to the rink every day and playing the game I love while traveling around and bonding with my teammates.”

Strange Bedfellows

Between 2005 and 2012, when you said Bismarck and Alexandria in North American Hockey League circles, you were talking about one of the league’s hottest-burning rivalries between the Bobcats and the Blizzard.

The Bobcats and the Blizzard battled annually in the NAHL’s Central Division, meeting three times in the playoffs between 2009 and 2011, but following the 2011-12 season, the NAHL Blizzard relocated to Brookings, S.D., while the team in Alexandria (still the Blizzard) became a franchise in the NA3HL.

With the move to the NA3HL, the Blizzard’s priority as a program shifted to developing talent not only for the collegiate ranks, but also the NAHL itself. Enter forward Ian Ecklund, who joined Alexandria for their inaugural year in the Tier III circuit.

Ecklund tore it up with the Blizzard, finishing sixth in the NA3HL with 71 points in 48 games, catching the eye of Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie.

“In talks with Alexandria head coach Jeff Crouse, he told me that Ian was a guy that could be an impact player in ‘the NA’ for 2013-14,” recalled Sedevie. “So we got a look at him at NA3HL Showcase and offered him a tender.”

Though Crouse—who played his junior hockey for the Bobcats in their first two seasons in Bismarck/Mandan—was on the bench in Alexandria for some of the fiercest years of the Bobcats-Blizzard rivalry, he was a major driving force behind Ecklund signing on with the Cats.

“Coach Crouse had nothing but great things to say about the Bobcats,” informed Ecklund, who put up 44 points in 25 games during his senior season at Proctor (Minn.) High School for the Rails. “He told me they were one of the winningest programs in the NAHL and did a great job of preparing guys and helping move them onto the next level.

”I wasn’t a part of the rivalry, so it’s definitely not a personal thing for me. I loved my time in Alexandria and now I’m excited to be a Bobcat.”

Power Plant

Standing tall at 6’3”, Ian Ecklund fits the physical mold of a power forward, a role that he embraces.

“Being tall, I have a long reach, which is an advantage at both ends of the ice,” assessed Ecklund, “and I’m able to use my size to create traffic and make things happen in front of the net on offense.”

On last year’s Bobcats team, only late-season acquisition Seth Blair stood at 6’3” (or higher), so the addition of Ecklund gives the Bobcats even more size up front with Blair returning for his final season, too.

“It’s never a bad thing to add more size up front,” assessed Sedevie. “You look at the Robertson Cup team in 2010, you had three skyscrapers on one line in Jason Fabian (6’4”), Nick Jensen (6’3”) and Gavin Hartzog (6’3”)—that was our top line that year, too.

“With guys like Ian in the fold, it may end up being a bit of a different look for us, because we have a lot more size than we saw last year in training camp. We may be a much bigger team this year.”

In 2012-13, the team’s average height was 5’11”.

Ecklund’s frame, however, is just part of the equation for the Bobcats.

“You can’t teach size, obviously,” cited Sedevie, “but Ian also has a powerful shot and that finishing ability that can be tough to find at this level. We’re excited about his potential.”

A Good Look

With training camp well under way, Ian Ecklund has already gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a Bobcat.

“Even through just a few days, everything has exceeded my expectations,” credited Ecklund.

A major component of his first week in town, of course, is the team’s “Hell Week” program.

Like many first-time Bobcats, the forward is blown away by the start of the team’s training regimen.

“’Hell Week’ is one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through,” admitted Ecklund. “It’s really demanding and exhausting but at the same time it’s incredible for team bonding, to go through something so difficult as a unit.”

Through the difficulty of the grueling dryland process, Ecklund can see its value.

“Being a taller player, the thing scouts always look for is strength to go with the height,” noted Ecklund, “so working with [Bobcats fitness director] Mike Salwei at Healthways is already putting me on track to be able to improve an important aspect of my game.”

With the off-ice improvement on track, Ecklund can focus on the major on-ice goal.

“One thing I’ve learned quickly is that the returners on this team are driven and focused on getting back to the national tournament and winning the Robertson Cup. I’m looking forward to helping make that a reality for all of us.”

Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we’ll also sit down with Mathias Ahman, Blake Busch, Jeremy Norway and Will Pavek.