Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, one of the top 2014 draft-eligible prospects on the board next June, was named captain of Canada's National summer Under-18 Team that will compete at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Canada's U-18 coach Dale Hunter made the announcement Sunday, one day prior to the start of the tournament.
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Canada's National U-18 Team will begin its quest for a sixth consecutive gold medal against the Czech Republic in Group A in Breclav, Czech Republic, at 1 p.m. ET. It will be the first of three games in three days for Canada, which faces Sweden on Tuesday and Switzerland on Wednesday during the preliminary round.
The top two teams from Group A and Group B will cross over for the semifinals on Friday before the gold medal and bronze medal game, scheduled Saturday.
Ekblad (6-foot-3.25, 213 pounds) of the OHL's Colts was awarded exceptional player status two years ago, meaning he was deemed eligible for the OHL draft as 15-year-old. That's a year younger than the standard of age 16.
He had 10 goals and 29 points in 63 games as a rookie in 2011-12 and had seven goals, 34 points and a plus-29 rating in 54 games last season when he was also dealing with lower-body injuries.
"Aaron was used on the top defensive pair as well as both the power-play and penalty-killing units," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He's fit in very well and shown he deserves to be in the league as an underage player."
Ekblad was named captain of Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and finished as the second-highest scoring defenseman at the tournament with six points (two goals, four assists).
"He has a hard, accurate shot and shows a lot of poise and confidence," Edwards said. "He is physically strong and uses his size and strength very well. He will not back down when challenged and moves the puck well with hard accurate passes."
The United States U-18 national summer team also begins play in the Ivan Hlinka on Monday against Finland in Group B preliminary-round play at 2 p.m. ET.