361 days ago, D Aaron Ekblad
’s name was called in Philadelphia. He was selected by Florida with the first selection in the 2015 NHL Draft on June 27. Less than one year later, the Calder Trophy nominee stood in the MGM Garden Arena this morning, reflecting back on his sensational freshman season.
“When you are a kid you dream about playing in the NHL and it has truly been a great experience for me,” he said. “It is all about challenging yourself and you never want to be satisfied where you are and as a team we were not happy with our finish from last year.”
After patrolling the Panthers’ blueline for just one season, Ekblad has re-written the Panthers record books. The 19-year old defenseman set single-season franchise records for rookie defensemen in goals (12), assists (27) and points (39). On Nov. 1, Ekblad recorded his first NHL goal, becoming the youngest defenseman in franchise history to record a goal. The honors continued to pile up as Ekblad was selected to compete in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, where he led all All-Star defenseman in scoring with four points (0-4—4).
Ekblad’s 12 tallies ranked him first among NHL rookie defensemen, while his 39 points placed him second in scoring for NHL rookie defensemen. Ekblad finished the season ranked eighth overall in NHL rookie scoring and was the only player under the age of 20 to finish in the top ten for rookie scoring. The All-Star defenseman logged a total of 1,766:37 of ice time this season to lead all rookies in overall ice time.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound blueliner finished third all-time in points among NHL rookie defensemen who began their careers at 18-years old, finishing two points shy of tying Bobby Orr (41 pts.) for second all-time.
Anyone who thinks that Ekblad may rest on his freshman season achievements will be surely mistaken.
“I thrive on high expectations and use them as motivation to make me a better player and teammate each year,” says Ekblad. “I am looking forward to getting the season started again and we all expect our team to be in the playoffs next season.”
Before Ekblad turns the page on his first NHL season, he still does have some unfinished business. The Belle River, Ontario, native hopes to cap an incredible rookie year by hearing his named called once again, but this time as the winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy tomorrow night.