First overall pick, Calder next? Ekblad says it’s ‘no doubt’ a goal

COLUMBUS, OH — Part of Aaron Ekblad’s ‘support system’ in Florida includes Panthers TV analyst and Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history.

Pretty good guy to lean on for advice. Even better guy to emulate.

And as we hit the All-Star break, Ekblad’s doing just that. Firmly in the conversation as this year’s top rookie, Ekblad could become the first defenseman to go No. 1 overall and win the Calder in the same season as, yup, you guessed it — Potvin.

“[He’s] is always in the room for media stuff, and we often talk off the record about different things,” Ekblad said of Potvin. “It’s a good support system to have, that’s for sure.”

Back in December, Brough wrote about the possibility of Ekblad becoming one of the few defenseman to ever win the Calder. The count sits 10 all-time, but includes legends like Potvin, Ray Bourque, Brian Leetch and Bobby Orr — who’s also part of the aforementioned support system, serving as Ekblad’s advisor.

No surprise the 18-year-old has his eye on the trophy.

“It’s a goal, that’s for sure,” Ekblad said during Wednesday’s All-Star media session at Nationwide. “Any trophy or any recognition like that is a goal, there’s no doubt.”

But it’s not like Ekblad’s been light on recognition this year. In addition to going No. 1 overall, he’s already set a Panthers’ record for points by a rookie defenseman and was named to this year’s All-Star game… even though he didn’t know much about it. (Reports of him replacing injured Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson surfaced just prior to media day, so Ekblad hadn’t been officially told he was in.)

Now, there’s just one more accolade he’d like to have — helping get Florida into the playoffs for just the second time in 14 years.

“You play the game of hockey to win hockey games and make it to the Stanley Cup Final, and win it,” he said. “That’s something that’s embedded in every player here, and that’s something that every player’s dreamed of.”

Note: Bryan Berard also went No. 1 overall and captured rookie of the year, but was drafted in ’95 and didn’t win the Calder until ’97.

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