Aaron Ekblad THW Close-Up:
Date of birth: 6/7/1996
Place of birth: Belle River, ON, CAN
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 216 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2014
THW War Room Rankings (April): 1
Craig Button: 2
Aaron Ekblad is good…like DAMN good. He’s one of only four players in the history of junior hockey to be granted exceptional status. The consensus best defenseman in the draft, Ekblad has all the tools to be a future top pairing defenseman in the NHL. He has the imposing physical frame, the poise a defenseman needs to move the puck up ice, and his vision and positioning are second to none.
Ekblad’s game is a perfect balance of offensive instinct and defensive awareness. Rarely will you find him out of position and is one of the toughest opponents to beat along the boards or in the front of the crease. His skill with the puck is complimented with his ruggedness all over the ice. Almost a point-per-game player this season from the backend, Ekblad has improved by leaps and bounds every OHL season for the past three years. Aaron Ekblad shouldn’t have an issue translating his game to the NHL whatsoever.
Where Will He End Up In June:
Ekblad could very well go 1st overall in the draft to the Florida Panthers, but it all depends on how the team values Ekblad. He can drop, but chances are he won’t fall out of the top three picks.
“An exceptional talent, Ekblad has an impressive blend of size and strength for his age. He’s mature, confident and poised in all three zones, skates well and is strong in transition.”
Aaron Vickers – Future Considerations
“Receiving exceptional player status in the OHL can be hard enough. You can magnify that when you’re only the second player to receive such status in league history; following in the footsteps of some guy named John Tavares. Aaron Ekblad was that guy, and he played the part well as he went on to become the OHL’s Rookie of the Year in his first season. The 17-year-old, Belle River, Ont. native is an imposing presence on the blueline as his tenacity and physical presence in combination with his size are an extremely rare combination. Ekblad’s offensive game has continued to evolve and his heavy shot and offensive zone skills project well to the next level. Ekblad has always been labeled as having ‘heavy feet’, but as he continues to develop it looks like an area of his game that is becoming less of a concern.“
“He’s smart and an excellent all-round skater for his size [6-3.5, 216],” Marr said. “He handles and distributes the puck well in all zones, passes with authority and possesses an accurate shot from the point.“
Dan Marr – NHL.com
“Aaron Ekblad has everything you could possibly want in a defenceman, and is great at both ends of the ice. He has a bullet slap shot from the point, and a strong first pass. He shows a ton of offensive potential and has been close to a point per game pace with 23 goals and 53 points in 58 games. He is extremely smart with the puck, and a good quarterback on the powerplay. He understands how to keep his shot low and on net when there is traffic in front of the net, but can still blast away. He has the skating and puckhandling skills to join the rush, or even lead it and recover defensively.
Even with that great offensive potential, he’s even better defensively, as Ekblad dominates older players physically in his own zone winning board battles and clearing the front of the net. He has ideal NHL size at 6’3″, and should continue to get stronger as he has room to add muscle to his frame. He also has strong positioning and good hockey sense and defensive instincts. While the OHL doesn’t keep time on the ice stats he seems to play close to 35 minutes or more a night for the Colts against the best players in the league, and almost always seems to get the best of his peers. He can also throw the occasional big hit, but has enough sense not to run around and get out of position looking for it.”
Ben Kerr – Last Word On Sports
Ekblad has suited up for Team Canada thrice and has won a bronze medal at the U17 WHC and a gold medal in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament earlier this year.
Risk: 1/5 Reward: 5/5
Top pairing defenseman and future #1 defenseman
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive: 8.5/10 Defensive: 7/10
NHL Player Comparison:
– NHL comparison: Shea Weber
– Hall of Fame comparison: Larry Robinson
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Follow Shawn on Twitter: @ShawnTHW