Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The 20-year-old has agreed to keep a diary throughout the tournament, which begins in Toronto on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 1.
In his first installment, Ekblad talks about the first day of practice, on Monday at Bell Centre, with his tournament teammates in Montreal, and what his expectations are for the team.
MONTREAL - The first day together was informative. That's the best adjective to use. We absorbed a lot of information from the coaches on penalty kill. And we absorbed a lot of information on entries and forecheck and stuff like that. So that's what we worked on today in our practice, trying to nail down exactly what we want to do so that we're on the same page.
Coming out of the summer, I get the sense we're ready. Me personally, to prepare I took my time off during the summer. I travelled a little bit and had some fun. For me, one of the biggest things about playing hockey is being able to get away from it as well. We play 82 games. Every single day, we're at the rink. It's very important to get your down time. I really believe in that, probably more than most. I probably started skating fairly early, though and then started skating consistently, four or five times a week, about three weeks ago. That was my timeline.
Finally getting together after all the build-up, we're all with players who aren't normally teammates for the most part, and the coaches are new to so many of us, so maybe that's a little strange. But I know Todd McLellan. I played for him at the World Championship last year and I think he's been leaning on a few guys that he knows, like Sean Couturier, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nathan MacKinnon, all guys who have played for him before. He's kind of leaning on us to understand the systems because they're fairly similar.
We're just trying to absorb as much of that information as we can and pass that on to guys who may or may not know it.