Get to know a draft pick — Aaron Ekblad

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Leading up to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, we’ll be profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

Aaron Ekblad (D)

Height: 6’3 Weight: 213 Shoots: Right

Team: Barrie Colts (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

There’s a reason why “Bad for Ekblad” was arguably the most persistent tanking rhyme scheme for fans of cellar-dwelling NHL teams: he’s a special player. Ekblad isn’t a shoo-in for the No. 1 pick, yet maybe he should be.

You know a guy’s on the radar when he’s writing a draft blog for NHL.com.

He was named the OHL defenseman of the year in 2013-14, made Canada’s World Junior Championship roster at 17 and became the second OHL player to be granted exceptional status (John Tavares did it first) as a 15-year-old junior hockey draftee.

Scouts and observers deem Ekblad “The Total Package” (though mostly without any Lex Luger references). He boasts NHL-ready size right off the bat. Some outlets even list him as being an inch taller and a few lbs. heavier.

His combination of defensive acumen and mean streak (91 PIM in 2013-14) likely make NHL teams most excited, even if he shows some offensive flash (an OHL defensemen-leading 23 goals is promising enough). Ekblad himself critiques his foot speed, yet few prospects boast such an array of strengths and such a short “cons” list.

Maybe it’s not totally crazy that people are throwing around the names “Shea Weber” and “Chris Pronger” as comparables.

For even more on the promising defenseman, check out this infographic from the Calgary Flames and an in-depth profile on the “18-year-old who acts like he’s 30,” via the Canadian Press.

Quotable:

An anonymous scout told the Toronto Sun:

“He’s an NHL passer already. He’s the most flawless of the top players and he’s the most NHL-ready.”

WJC coach Brent Sutter preached to the choir (but most specifically the Toronto Star) about Ekbland’s versatility:

“He’s smart, big, strong,” Sutter said of Ekblad. “He handles a lot of minutes. He can play the power play, kill penalties. Defends well. He’s a special talent. We have a few of these younger guys who are gifted for their age.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft previews, click here.

Panthers select Aaron Ekblad with the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.