There's still a little over two months until the puck drops on the 2019-20 season, but Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad might've well just returned home from a long road trip.
For as we all know, when hockey season's over, wedding season begins.
Piling up frequent-flyer miles like points from the blue line, Ekblad was all over the place during the latter half of July, traveling up and down the East Coast to attend the weddings of two of his longtime teammates, Mike Matheson and Vincent Trocheck, within the span of just one week.
"It's always great to see the boys," Ekblad said. "I've been trying to get in as many workouts as possible in between the weddings. It's a good time. It's a great to see everybody. Right now, it's all about eating good, staying in shape and then stepping up in August to get into game-shape."
When he's not tearing up the dance floor at weddings, Ekblad can usually be found either at his home in Fort Lauderdale or at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs. Heading into the upcoming season, he told FloridaPanthers.com that his goals are simple: get bigger, stronger and faster.
"It's pretty much just skating, working out and eating good," Ekblad said of his day-to-day routine. "I hang out at home. My girlfriend is in med school, so she's really busy as well."
Taking the ice for a team-leading and career-high 1,938:49 last season, Ekblad found the back of the net 13 times in 2018-19. One of the top-scoring blueliners since he entered the league in 2014-15, the former Calder Trophy winner is also just the 13th rearguard in NHL history to score 10-plus goals in each of his first five seasons, joining the likes of Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin.
In order to continue honing that scoring touch, Ekblad said when he's not on the ice, he typically spends at least two days a week working on an artificial rink that he had installed in his garage.
"I'll go in there and shoot anywhere from 100 to 400 pucks," said Ekblad, whose 66 career goals stand as the most by a defenseman in Panthers history. "It depends on how I feel that day."
As the season approaches, Ekblad has also been spending more and more time working at the Panthers IceDen, ramping up training regime in preparation for training camp in September. Fine-tuning every aspect of his game, he said he's currently hitting the ice three days a week.
"I just try and dedicate a little bit of time to each area of the game, whether it's transition work or speed stuff, shooting and skills, puck handling and development," Ekblad said. "I also work on some game-situation stuff, like 2-on-1's and things of that nature."
Like most of us, Ekblad has also been watching Florida's offseason with excitement. And by bringing in three-time Stanley Cup winning head coach Joel Quenneville and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, he believes the team is now prepared to push for the playoffs.
"We've had some struggles and we've had some triumphs," Ekblad said of his time with the Panthers. "The biggest thing for us is to get back into the playoffs. As we've seen year after year, anything can happen once you get there. Eighth seeds can win. I remember when Los Angeles won not too long ago. I also don't think anyone expected St. Louis to win, but they did. It all comes down to grit and resilience. I think we have a lot of that with our team now."
Looking ahead, Ekblad said he expects to have some company on the ice in the coming weeks, as his teammates begin heading back to South Florida starting sometime around mid-August.
"Until then, it's just trying to prepare like I always do," Ekblad said. "It's trying to find the right algorithm."