At the NHL entry draft last year Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad stole the show after being drafted first overall by the Florida Panthers. Ekblad had a very impressive track sheet and proved himself worthy of being taken in the number one spot.
This season, on the same junior team in a city named Barrie, a new defenceman seems to be storming onto the scene in the OHL. At least, he caught my eye very quickly. This defenceman is 6’0, 210 pound Rasmus Andersson of the Barrie Colts.
For those who do not know, Andersson was drafted by the Colts in the first round of last year’s import draft. He spent his youth playing in several leagues in Sweden, but has made the seamless switch to hockey in North America. When watching Andersson play it is clear that there are some striking similarities to the game of Aaron Ekblad.
Ekblad was held in high regard for his ability to absolutely punish opponents physically on the ice. His size was obviously a big factor in this area, and Andersson has a solid frame himself. Like Ekblad, Andersson does not shy away from any opponent and more often than not will come out having won battles.
Andersson knows how to use his size in the appropriate fashion. He can punish opponents with big hits, he can dominate board play and he does not get pushed off the puck easily. As he ages and progresses he will develop more muscle and probably grow another inch or two. As he translates his game to the NHL level his size will help the progression and make the switch to the Pros much easier.
Ekblad has always been able to make smart decisions with the puck in most areas of the ice. This natural ability makes him much more desirable as it shows he can play in all situations. In my opinion, Andersson has a higher hockey IQ than Ekblad did at this age.
Andersson makes the right decision every time with his puck movement and positioning. He knows when he should pinch in offensively and when to back off and prepare for his defensive duties. His outlet passing is second to none as his two-line breakout passes are consistently tape-to-tape. His vision while in the offensive zone creates bundles of chances . You never see him out of position and on the rare occasion you do, he will be the first player to make up for his mistake. As he matures as a player and gains experience his natural hockey IQ will shine through even more and emphasize his strengths.
Ekblad has an extremely impressive shot. The sheer power that he can unleash from his stick is remarkable and will translate into one of the best in the NHL in the years to come. That being said, Andersson has a very impressive shot as well.
Rasmus Andersson does so many things well. His big shot back there will prove big for the Barrie Colts, especially on power play.
— Gene Pereira (@GenePereira1) September 5, 2014
Not only can Andersson let go an absolute bomb from the point, he gets his shot through traffic nearly every time. It does not matter how many players are in the lane, he somehow manages to find a hole to get his beast of a shot on net.
While many defencemen tend to be one-trick-ponies in the offensive zone, Andersson is actually the opposite. He does not try and shoot every time he has the puck, rather, he tries to set up other players and enforce good puck movement with creative passing plays. He is the perfect player to have quarterbacking a top powerplay unit.
Expect Andersson to have a heavy influence on the direction of the Colts’ offensive output this year.
Andersson has a good picture in his head in regards to what should happen in the defensive zone. He knows his positioning and how to cut down angles from the opposition. When he is on the ice the puck is rarely held in the colts’ zone. Andersson can take over a play, slow it down, and start a breakout all while keeping his composure and remaining calm.
Ekblad had a similar philosophy in his own zone and knew how to use his body to dominate play and get the puck going the other way.
Both Rasmus Andersson and Aaron Ekblad are very talented defencemen who will have promising NHL careers. The fact that they both developed on the same junior team is quite the coincidence. They both have a very similar style of play and it is difficult to decipher who will turn into the better player down the road. However, in my opinion, I believe Andersson is the better player (slightly) at the age of seventeen.
Andersson is a more well-rounded player at this age and will be considered in the top 10 – 15 of the 2015 NHL draft. I will provide updates on Rasmus and other draft eligible’s from the OHL as the year progresses to keep you up to date on some great players coming out of the Ontario league!
Let me know what you think of the comparison, or give me your own opinions on Ekblad and Andersson.