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Draft Profile: Aaron Ekblad

Wednesday, 06.18.2014 / 10:00 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Draft Profile: Aaron Ekblad
Each weekday leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft on June 27-28, CarolinaHurricanes.com will profile one player we believe might be available for Carolina’s seventh pick. Previous Profiles: Leon Draisaitl | Michael Dal Colle | Sam Bennett | Related Links: 2014 NHL Draft Preview | Hurricanes Draft History




Michael Smith
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As far as top defensive prospects available in the 2014 NHL Draft go, Aaron Ekblad is as good as they come.

The NHL’s Central Scouting Service ranks Ekblad as the second-best North American skater and top among defensemen.

“He’s a big horse. He’s a stud,” said the Canes Director of Amateur Scouting, Tony MacDonald. “You can anchor your defense around this guy for 15 years. He’s NHL-ready now.”

By all accounts, Ekblad is already prepared for professional hockey both physically and mentally. Measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, the 18-year-old blue liner packs a sizeable frame. Ekblad is also a mature individual on and off the ice having already played three full seasons of junior hockey.

Ekblad became the first defenseman and just the second player in Canadian Hockey League history to be granted exceptional status, allowing him to begin his junior career at age 15 in a league of 16-20-year-olds. At the time, the only other player to have received that exemption was John Tavares in 2005.

AARON EKBLAD
Aaron Ekblad
DEFENSEMAN
HOMETOWN: BELLE RIVER, ONTARIO
HEIGHT: 6'4"
WEIGHT: 216
BIRTHDAY: FEB. 7, 1996 (AGE 18)

Now, the Belle River, Ontario, native has three seasons with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League under his belt. As a rookie in 2011-12, Ekblad ranked second among team defensemen in points with 29 (10g, 19a) in 63 games. In 13 postseason games, he was the team’s leading defensive scorer with five points (2g, 3a). In 2012-13, Ekblad again ranked second among team defensemen in points with 34 (7g, 27a) and was a team-second-best plus-29, helping Barrie capture the Central Division title. The Colts would go on to drop a heartbreaking seven-game series to London in the OHL Finals, losing the deciding game on a last-minute goal. Ekblad again was the team’s leading defensive scorer with 17 points (7g, 10a) and a plus-11 rating in 22 postseason games.

Ekblad captained the Colts in 2013-14 and was nearly a point-per-game producer. His 53 points (23g, 30a) ranked tied for third on the team and tied for fourth among all OHL defensemen.

“He’s got a bomb from the point. He can shoot the puck,” MacDonald said. “He defends well, and he’s hard to play against.”

As a 17-year-old, Ekblad skated for Team Canada in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Even as the second-youngest player on the team, he regularly chewed up big minutes, paired alongside Pittsburgh prospect Derrick Pouliot. Offensively, he contributed a goal and an assist in seven tournament games.

“He was probably the best defenseman at the World Juniors this year as a 17-year-old, which is very rare,” MacDonald said.

Reports suggest that the Florida Panthers, who passed over prized defensive prospect Seth Jones in favor of power forward Aleksander Barkov in last year’s Draft, could take Ekblad first overall this year – and if they don’t, the teams picking next would surely salivate at the possibility of landing him. MacDonald can see why.

“He’s a man, and he’s strong. He’s mature physically and a mature individual as the captain of his team,” MacDonald said. “He’s maybe the most NHL-ready of the entire group.”



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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