In a nutshell
Ekblad is mature beyond his years. He looks like he has been shaving since he was 10, he’s got great size and strength, is poised all over the ice, and is a workhorse that logs big minutes. He posted 53 points (23-30-53) and 91 penalty-minutes in 58 games this past season with the Barrie Colts, where he also served as team captain. His 23 goals led all OHL defenceman, while his 53 points where tops for all 1996-born blue-liners.
Been there, done that
Was just the second player, behind John Tavares, to be granted “exceptional status” in the OHL, which allowed him to start his junior career at age 15. Was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman this past season. Won a bronze medal with Ontario at the 2012 World Under-17 Challenge as an under-ager, and returned to captain the team at the 2013 tournament. Won gold for Canada as the captain of the national Under-18 team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka. Netted two points (1-1-2) in seven games with Team Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championships. In the OHL Coaches Poll, he was voted first in four categories: best shot, hardest shot, best offensive defenceman, and best defensive defenceman.
When you watch Ekblad play, it’s hard not to see a younger, slightly tamer, Shea Weber on the ice. He plays in all situations, is physically intimidating, and possesses a rocket shot. Ekblad is ahead of where Weber was in his development at this time. Weber had just 94 games of junior experience when he was drafted in 2003, Ekblad already has 219 OHL games under his belt.
Word on the street
“When you build a team, you need a solid foundation. Aaron is a pillar defenceman who can play 25 minutes or more and do so in all important situations. His on-ice maturity is exceptional.” – TSN’s Craig Button (Jan. 23, 2014)
Good fit in Vancouver?
Ekblad appears to have the potential to be a Norris Trophy winner down the road. It’s rare to find a defenseman this young that is so physically mature and ready to step into the NHL right away. With the core group the Canucks already have on the backend, Ekblad would be able to ease his way into the NHL without having to carry the bulk of the load. If the Canucks want him, they will have to move up, as Ekblad should be gone by the time the third pick comes around.