Aaron Ekblad
Aaron Ekblad
23-Year-Old DefensemanD
Florida Panthers
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Ekblad isn't a bad player, but the Panthers were expecting more when they drafted him first overall back in 2014. He has scored double-digit goals in each of his five NHL seasons, finishing with between 36 and 39 points four times. Ekblad is a respectable passer and has a heavy shot, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him finally eclipse 40 points at age 23. Doing so won't be easy without a role on Florida's top power-play unit, however, and veteran power-play quarterback Keith Yandle won't be giving up his spot to Ekblad anytime soon. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed an eight-year, $60 million contract extension with the Panthers in July of 2016.
Registers two helpers
DFlorida Panthers
October 15, 2019
Ekblad was responsible for two assists in Monday's 6-3 comeback win against the Devils.
Ekblad's offensive input was critical for the Cats' comeback down 4-1, as he assisted on both the game-tying and game-winning goals. He now has four points through the first six games. With the offensive talent on the Panthers roster, and considering Ekblad is sixth in the league in average time on ice (25:24), he is looking at what could be a breakout season offensively.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Drafted first overall by Florida in the 2014 NHL Draft, Ekblad is coming off his best season since his 39-point rookie campaign that earned him Calder Memorial honors. The 6-foot-4 blueliner tallied 38 points with a career-high 16 goals while playing all 82 games for the first time. He also averaged a career-best 23:23 of ice time per game, up from his career average of 21:40 prior to last season. Ekblad finished the 2017-18 campaign with a shooting percentage of 8.5 on 189 shots on goal, up from his 4.4 percent on 225 shots in 2016-17. His offensive efficiency will be key in his attempt to cross the 40-point threshold for the first time in 2018-19. Expect Ekblad to finish near his career-high once again and continue asserting himself as a strong two-way defenseman.
The top pick in the 2014 draft, Ekblad has earned comparisons to Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom, but he’s coming off a hugely disappointing season that saw him total career worsts in games played (68), points (21) and rating (minus-23), partly because he never had a chance to get going. He was forced to leave the World Cup early in September after suffering from whiplash thanks to a hard hit, then suffered a concussion during the season thanks to another hard hit -- his second such injury in as many seasons. Given the history of players whose careers have been cut short by head trauma, the 21-year-old’s situation is a little concerning, but he’s expected to return at full strength. When healthy, Ekblad is one of the most dependable young defenders in the game, capable of playing in all situations and logging heavy minutes. A return to form for both Ekblad and the Panthers is expected for the upcoming season, and he certainly has the talent to register 40 points if he and the rest of the team’s core can stay on the ice.
Ekblad has been nothing short of spectacular since being drafted first overall in 2014, totaling 75 points and a plus-30 rating in two NHL seasons as a teenager. His points dropped slightly last year from his rookie season (36 from 39), but he compensated for that with a more goal-heavy stat line and better plus-minus. The newly acquired Keith Yandle is likely to serve as Ekblad’s defensive partner; that assignment could lead to a slight reduction in rating, but even more offensive opportunities for the young blue-line stud. Ekblad has started his career on the right foot with consecutive seasons of double-digit goals, and as he rounds into midcareer form as the franchise defenseman he’s destined to be, his stats should only get better.
At just 18 years old, Ekblad made a huge splash as a rookie. The first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft finished his inaugural season with 12 goals and 27 assists while playing in 81 games to earn the Calder Trophy. Perhaps the most impressive part of his stat line was the plus-12 rating he managed for a Panthers team that finished with a minus-17 goal differential. Working as one of Florida's top-four defensemen and on the power play (where he tallied six goals in 2014-15), Ekblad is one of the brightest young stars on an up-and-coming team. After finishing second among all rookie defensemen in points in 2014-15, Ekblad has already established himself as a reliable source of scoring from the blue line and should continue to develop into a more complete defenseman over time. Ekblad is a top option in dynasty leagues and likely, a top-20 defenseman in yearly formats.
Ekblad was the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, after he concluded a sensational junior hockey career that included being named the top defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League in 2013-14. Ekblad posted strong offensive numbers as a junior (20 goals and 53 points in 58 games), but has indicated that he wants to focus primarily on his defensive game as a rookie. He is expected to make the Panthers out of training camp, but whether or not he sticks with the team beyond the nine-game window at the start of the season remains to be seen. If Ekblad stays with the club, he would be expected to take a regular shift in the Panthers’ top six, while potentially adding his big shot to the team’s power play. Young defensemen often struggle in their first year (see Jones, Seth), but there is every reason to think that Ekblad will be a force on the back end for Florida sooner rather than later.
More Fantasy News
Fires at net
DFlorida Panthers
October 13, 2019
Ekblad unloaded six shots on goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Islanders on Saturday.
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Shoulders heavy workload
DFlorida Panthers
October 6, 2019
Ekblad picked up an assist on 25:44 of ice time in a 4-3 win over the Lightning on Saturday.
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Dishes out two assists
DFlorida Panthers
September 25, 2019
Ekblad picked up two assists during Tuesday's 6-3 win over Tampa Bay.
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Leads in ice time
DFlorida Panthers
March 29, 2019
Ekblad spent a team-high 24:29 on ice during Thursday's 5-2 win over the Senators.
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Scores in Sunday's loss
DFlorida Panthers
March 18, 2019
Ekblad potted his 13th goal of the season in Sunday's loss to the Ducks.
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