TORONTO -- Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad doesn't consider himself to be arrogant, but he's confident that he's ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.
"That's the way I believe in myself," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm cocky but I'm confident and I believe that if I work hard and do all the little things, pay attention to details, I can be in that League next year."
Ranked second by NHL Central Scouting on its final list of the top North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft, Ekblad has reason to be confident. In 58 games this season, the 6-foot-3, 213-pounder led all Ontario Hockey League defensemen with 23 goals and tied for fifth with 53 points. He also had one goal and one assist in seven games with Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"He's smart and an excellent all-around skater for his size," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He handles and distributes the puck well in all zones, passes with authority and possesses an accurate shot from the point."
NHL teams certainly have noticed, which is why he's a candidate to be the first defenseman taken with the top pick since the St. Louis Blues picked Erik Johnson No. 1 in 2006.
Ekblad had 16 interviews, and one question he was asked in all of them was if he thought he was NHL-ready. He had the same answer every time.
"One hundred percent [ready]," he said. "Every team asks. It's a pretty mandatory question. If you believe in yourself, it's going to portray to them that you're willing to do it and put in the time."
To cement his dreams, he plans on going full force with his summer training.
"It's going to be a long month of working out and getting stronger," he said. "Hopefully get some ice time in. Be ready for that post-draft training camp or rookie camp."