2014 NHL Draft Profile #1: Aaron Ekblad
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Its been a long time since a defenceman was taken first overall in the NHL Draft, as Erik Johnson was the last defender to achieve this honour in 2006. Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts looks to break that streak though. Ekblad came into the OHL as a 15 year old, the second ever to get “exceptional status” after John Tavares. Through his three years with the Colts he’s developped from a kid with a ton of potential to a finely tuned near finished product. He was a key part of Canada’s World Junior team this year, playing in a top four role, something that is extremely rare for a draft eligible defenceman. He also captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer.
I believe Ekblad is not just NHL ready, but ready to step into a significant role with whatever team is lucky enough to draft him as early as next year. For now though he’s led his Barrie Colts into a five game first round series win over the Sudbury Wolves and is looking to take them back to the OHL Final and beyond this spring.
Defense — shoots Right
Born Feb 7 1996 — Belle River, ONT
Height 6.03 — Weight 207 [191 cm/94 kg]
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.
This year I talked to two anonymous NHL scouts about a few of these players. For obvious reasons they asked not to be named or their team identified. On Ekblad one NHL scout said, “He’s been great since joining the OHL. I would take him first overall. He’s a special player.”
Ekblad has the potential to be an NHL Superstar. If properly developed his ceiling is at Norris Trophy level, and that is why I rank him as the best player in this draft. As always my style comparisons are meant simply for style and not potential, but in this case Ekblad could reach the level of the player I compare him to, and that is Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.
Here are some videos, remember the first one is from the 2012-13 season
Check back tomorrow for my #2 ranked prospect.
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