Aaron Ekblad’s birth certificate says he’s 17, but if you were to just look at him you’s swear he was a lot older. Both on and off the ice Ekblad is blessed with an extreme amount of physical and mental development for a 17-year-old. Ekblad sits on top of the prospect rankings for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, just ahead of forward Sam Reinhart of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. He is a big, strong defenseman who skates very well for his size and is able to read the game at a level most junior players cannot. He is leading the playoff-bound Colts in ice time and often looks like a man among boys even while playing against junior players who are a year or two older then him.
Scouts have had their eye on Ekblad since he was a 14-year-old and he became the first defenseman (and second player after John Tavares) to be granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada. Later that year he was selected first overall in the OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Barrie Colts.
During last year’s draft Seth Jones dropped to 4th overall after being ranked #1 in the midseason ranking. This had little to do with his skill and a lot to do with the bigger question mark surrounding defensemen in the draft. Defenders are seen as bigger risks then forwards, especially when talking about very high draft picks. This same fear might creep in this season and teams might pass on Ekblad in favor of Reinhart or another forward like Sam Bennett or William Nylander. According to some scouts this could be a huge mistake as Ekblad appears to be the total package.
“He’s everything on the blueline; commands PP point, to shutting down top offensive threats. NHL ready.”
“Can’t deny his character and born-leader qualities…the backbone of the Colts.” – International Scouting Service
While Team Canada didn’t fare well in this year’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, Ekblad was one of the lone bright spots that rarely sees 17 year olds play let alone make a significant contribution. He was one of Canada’s best players and for large stretches of the tournament he out played Matt Dumba who was drafted two years ago and came to the team after spending the first half of the season playing in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild.
Now his up side might not be as high as many first overall picks, but Aaron Ekblad already looks like an NHL defenseman. Scouts will have to look at the risk/reward of taking him at #1. He may not turn into the superstar you often want from that pick but if he can put in a career like former first overall pick Chris Phillips has in Ottawa then I’m sure any team would be more then happy with that.