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Tracking the Storm

Draft Profile: Aaron Ekblad

Wednesday, 06.18.2014 / 10:00 AM / 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 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
3 NYI 62 40 20 2 200 173 82
4 TBL 62 37 19 6 203 167 80
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 62 33 19 10 184 156 76
8 BOS 60 29 22 9 158 158 67
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 61 25 27 9 137 161 59
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 59 22 30 7 134 159 51
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 59 11 27 -16 38
E. Staal 54 18 18 -9 36
E. Lindholm 58 11 15 -16 26
J. Skinner 54 15 9 -16 24
R. Nash 56 7 14 -9 21
N. Gerbe 55 6 14 -13 20
A. Sekera 57 2 17 -7 19
V. Rask 57 8 10 -18 18
J. McClement 59 4 12 1 16
J. Staal 23 4 11 -1 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 16 19 4 .914 2.35
A. Khudobin 6 11 3 .901 2.73