Before last year, Mattias Ekholm had only played three games across two NHL season. Even though he spent some time rotating in and out of the press box with Victor Bartley, Ekholm suited up for 61 games in 2013-2014, compiling a goal and nine points.
The organization rewarded him with a two-year, one-way contract this summer. The young Swede is going to find himself in the NHL for good this time, and he earned it.
Ekholm faced slightly tougher competition than Victor Bartley, and took less sheltered minutes than Ryan Ellis. He did pretty well on the ice given both of those caveats. Given that his CF% was pretty much break even, Ekholm should be a lock for the third pair, getting the nod over Bartley, especially whenever Ellis comes back.
In training camp, he's been skating with Seth Jones here and there, perhaps to try and see if the two are a fit and give Ekholm a shot at the second pair. It shouldn't be the first place he plays, but given that he showed in his first full year he can be a steady presence on the back end, there's no reason to think he can't fill in if Anton Volchenkov gets hurt.
Best Case Scenario
Evolves from "steady" to "rock solid" throughout the course of the year, getting some time on the second pairing and chipping in with a couple of goals.
Worst Case Scenario
Suffers some kind of injury, or goes back to being the seventh defenseman.
Loses his cool and gets into his first NHL fight, winning the bout according to Hockey Fights.
Black bear. Not extremely dangerous, but you still have to be on the lookout for them.