Over the past two games, the Florida Panthers have had two miraculous comeback wins. Down by three goals to both the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres, the Panthers were able to steal both games from right underneath their opponents. Victories can be and should be credited to the team effort as a whole. Yet if it weren’t for Aaron Ekblad and his Norris-like efforts, those comebacks never would have happened.
Aaron Ekbald’s Norris Campaign
Suppose we were to glance back to last season. Before the horrific season-ending injury, Aaron Ekblad was amongst the top defenders in the game. He played at an all-time high and led all defensemen in goals and points at certain times last season. Fast-forward to today, and Ekblad has yet to miss a beat. Not only is he a top producer on his team, second to be exact. He currently leads all NHL defensemen in points with 23, eight goals and 15 assists. Ekblad’s poise and patience are what has gotten him to this level. And now that he is back on his one-timer side while on the power-play, Ekblads numbers will only go up from here.
Averaging 25:29 minutes worth of ice time every night. Ekblad is putting up impressive numbers while being relied on in all situations. He is not known for his stay-at-home defensive play or any sort of physical role. Ekblad fills a role that every NHL team needs today, that is being an offensive, puck-moving, scoring defenseman. As the game evolves with its speed and skill, Ekblad is the perfect guy for all of it. A smooth skater who can handle the puck exceptionally well. His on-ice vision and hockey IQ continues to improve every single night for a player who only has one true accolade with a Calder Trophy. It is time for the hockey world to give Ekblad the respect he deserves.
Ekblad’s Numbers Don’t Lie
Whether you watch Ekblad every night or you check in from time to time, Aaron Ekblad is arguably the most notable player on the ice for his team. Even though only the goalies have more ice time than him, Ekblad is doing well in the eye test and the analytical numbers. No matter what analytical site you use, it could be MoneyPuck, Evolving Hockey, or even JFresh‘s fantastic work, they ALL say the same thing we see night in and night out… Aaron Ekblad is a Norris Trophy finalist.
With the second-most minutes played across the entire league defensive group, Ekblad leads all defensemen in Goals Above Replacement with eight and Wins Above Replacement with 1.4. He is a top-five defender in Individual Expected Goals with 4.13, assists with 15, and Even Strength Offence at 5.9. Ekblad is the front runner in the Norris Trophy race as we speak. Now, what might be most impressive out of all of this is that he is getting even better than last season. Thanks to JFresh, once again, we can see that Ekblad is improving in 99 percent of his categories. As argued before by this writer, defensemen are like fine wine; they become better with age. As Aaron Ekblad continues to mature on and off the ice. The accolades will not be far behind him.