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

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: