Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with D Aaron Ekblad.
“We are very pleased to have signed Aaron,” said Tallon. “He is a talented, strong, smart and hardworking defenseman who is ready to take the next step in his professional career. We look forward to watching him compete and develop at our prospects camp, throughout our main training camp and in preseason competition.”
Ekblad, 18, was selected by Florida with the first overall choice in the 2014 NHL Draft. He was named the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) most outstanding defenseman during the 2013-2014 season, ranking first among the league’s blueliners with 23 goals and tied for fifth with 53 points (23-30-53). The 6-foot-3, 213-pound defenseman became just the third player in his 18-year-old birth year to earn the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman honor in the past 20 years, following Ryan Ellis (selected 11th overall by Nashville in 2009) and Bryan Berard (selected 1st overall by Ottawa in 1995). He also served as Barrie’s team captain.
The Belle River, Ontario, native played a top-four role as a 17-year-old for Team Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship, registering two points (1-1-2) in seven games. On the international level, Ekblad captained Team Canada to the 2013 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial gold medal. He also served as captain of Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Earlier this month, Ekblad also attended Hockey Canada’s world junior summer development camp.
Ekblad was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2011 OHL Priority Selection as a 15-year-old. He was just the second player in OHL history to be given exceptional player status, following John Tavares in 2005. In his rookie season with Barrie, he recorded 29 points (10-19-29) in 63 games, earning OHL Rookie of the Year honors.
Florida opens prospects camp on Thursday, September 11, with medical and physical testing at BB&T Center. The only on-ice practice session in South Florida will take place on Friday, September 12, from 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., at the JetBlue Training Facility at the Panthers IceDen. The Panthers prospects will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for a four-team tournament (Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning) that will take place from September 13-16 at Ford Ice Center.