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Fantasy impact: Aaron Ekblad's return

Panthers defenseman has elite shot volume, could bounce back during final 11 games

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

Many fantasy owners cut ties with Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad after he sustained a concussion March 11. But he'll be back in the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-CR, NHL.TV), giving him some renewed short-term fantasy upside.

Ekblad, 21, (65 percent owned; 212th in Yahoo) could be available in some shallow formats because of the prior uncertainty surrounding his injury. Ekblad has severely regressed in points (21) and plus/minus (minus-22) compared to his first two NHL seasons (75 points, plus-30), but still can provide a significant boost in some key categories during Florida's final 11 games.

He has scored at least 10 goals in each of his three NHL seasons, and is tied for 16th in the League with 223 shots on goal despite missing the past four games. He's tied for second among defensemen in SOG behind Brent Burns (285), and his shot volume on a given night makes him a difference-maker in the category.

 

[Related: Ekblad returning for Panthers]

 

He has 17 games of at least five SOG, five games of at least seven SOG, and two games with nine SOG. His shooting percentage of 4.5 is down from his first two seasons (7.1 in 2014-15, 8.2 in 2015-16) and bound for an eventual correction. He is averaging 2:47 per game on the power play, has eight power-play points and 58 penalty minutes.

The combination of Ekblad's recent injury, the Panthers' in-season coaching change (Tom Rowe replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 27), injuries around him in the lineup, among them forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and a poor shooting percentage have led to his underachieving season. That said, Ekblad remains a premier keeper-league asset and has the shot volume and youth to be able to transform into a Burns-like fantasy beast in seasons to come.

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