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)
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.
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