Tracking the Storm

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
There is no question that Aaron Ekblad is the top defensive prospect available in the 2014 NHL Draft.
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.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72