The Hockey Writers Nashville Predators staff writer Colin Fitts will evaluate the performance of each player on the 2014-15 Predators roster every weekday in alphabetical order. You can follow Colin on Twitter, @FittsTHW.
Age: 24 (Turns 25 on May 25)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 204lbs
Stat Line: 80 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 PTS, +12 +/-, 52 PIM, 57 hits, 102 blocked shots, 19:00 AVG TOI
Playoffs Stat Line: 6 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 PTS, +4 +/-, 2 PIM, 9 hits, 11 blocked shots, 26:24 AVG TOI
*Points at Home vs Away: Home – 3 G, 3 A | Away – 4 G, 8 A
*Giveaway/Takeaway Correlation: 46 giveaways, 29 takeaways
Contract Status: 1 year remaining on a 2-year, $2.075 million contact ($1,037,500 cap hit in 2014-15)
Highlight of the Year: On March 24, Mattias Ekholm scored one of the best goals of the 2014-15 season in a 3-2 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens. It has been incredibly hard to score on Vezina Trophy favorite Carey Price this season, but Ekholm was able to do so on his knees after splitting PK Subban and Andrei Markov.
Strengths: Ekholm has a hidden knack for offense as a defender. Last season, he led all Predators and tied for fifth among all NHL-ers with Nick Leddy in shot attempts with 282. He also moves the puck well, which fits in perfectly to head coach Peter Laviolette’s up-tempo and speedy style of play.
Weaknesses: Despite a large figure, Ekholm does not play a physical game. If he wants to hit that next gear, he needs to have a larger physical presence.
What to Expect Next Season: Seeking a new contract with a pay raise, look for Ekholm to have a career year for Nashville. After totaling 18 points in 80 games last season, it is not hard to believe Ekholm will reach anywhere between 25-30 points in his third year in the NHL. He will likely remain on the third-pairing despite being capable of second-pairing minutes.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.