Things seem to be progressing quite nicely for Aaron Ekblad.
Only 26 games into his young career, Ekblad has proven continuously this season that he is a difference maker. Averaging 21:46 time on ice and trusted in all situations, the NHL freshman doesn’t just lead rookie defensemen in scoring but leads his team as well. Ekblad is currently tied with F Nick Bjugstad for first in scoring on Florida with 18 points on the season (5-13—18).
The Panthers rookie defenseman scored the Cats’ lone goal on Dec. 1 in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The following night, Ekblad recorded the game winning goal in a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The game in Detroit was a homecoming celebration for the Windsor native who grew up just across the river from Detroit. It was a night to remember as Ekblad’s friends and family attended this game.
“After the game, he gave the stick (he scored the goal with) to his parents for safe keeping. So, it’s something he’s always going to have,” said former Panther and Fox Sports Florida TV analyst, Bill Lindsay.
Ekblad continued his torrid pace, collecting an assist in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets on Dec. 4 and ended the week with a career-high three assists in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 6, making a bit of history in the process.
Here’s five stats you need to know about No. 5 after scoring his fifth of the season in St. Louis:
1. Ekblad’s fifth goal of the season extended his point streak to a career-high five games (3-4—7) on Monday night against the St. Louis Blues (Dec. 8).
2. The 18-year-old rookie from Windsor, Ontario is currently ranked first among rookie defensemen in goals (5), assists (13) and points (18).
3. Recently named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week for the week ending Dec. 7, Ekblad posted six points (2-4—6) in four games to lead the Panthers to five out of an eight possible points for the week.
4. Ekblad’s third assist on Dec. 6 against Buffalo tied the Florida franchise assist record for a rookie defenseman (13), set by D Dmitry Kulikov (2009-10).
5. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ekblad is the second rookie defenseman in Panthers franchise history to post three points in one game. D Dan Boyle was the last rookie defenseman for Florida to accomplish this feat. Boyle recorded three points (1-2—3) against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 24,1999.