Aaron Ekblad Scouting Report: 2014 NHL Draft Prospect Profile – Barrie Colts
Photo credit: CHL Images
By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)
With the 2014 NHL Entry Draft less than two months away, it’s time for my annual scouting reports on top draft eligible talent from the Ontario Hockey League.
Here is my scouting report on 2014 draft eligible Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts.
Age – 18
Position – Defenseman
Height – 6′4″
Weight – 217
Draft Projection: Top-3
OHL Team: Barrie Colts
2013 Regular Season Stats: 23 goals, 30 assists, 53 points, +7, 91PIM, 58 games played
2013 Playoff Stats: 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, 14PIM, 9 games played
NHL Comparable(s) – Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber
Upside – 8.5/10
Strengths – Aaron Ekblad is widely regarded as the best defenseman – and perhaps player – in this year’s draft class for a reason. At 6’4″ and almost 220lbs, Ekblad is already a load on the backend, and has the potential to grow even more. His strides look a little awkward at times, but he’s a good skater, and gets around very well for a player his size. Ekblad has surprisingly good hands, and is confident with the puck on his stick. If his team is in trouble in the defensive zone, he has no problem grabbing the puck, carrying it up ice and rushing it himself. Ekblad has one of the hardest shots in the OHL, and can score regularly using either a wrist shot or slapper. Both are very powerful and accurate, which is evident in his ridiculously high goal total. He’s a beast on the power play, and has the kind of shot you don’t want to get in the way of. Ekblad gets his point shots through for the most part, and does a nice job shooting around screens. Make no mistake about it: he’s a power play shooter, not a quarterback. That said, he’s a good stationary passer, and has shown the ability to hit teammates with accurate backhand saucer passes. When he’s truly engaged, he has the ability to dominate physically, and take games over. He’s not always as physical as I’d like him to be, but he has a good stick in the defensive zone, and is good when it comes to rubbing players off the puck. He’s usually good clearing the net on the penalty kill, and is willing to block shots in the defensive zone. Another aspect of his game I really like is his ability to gain the offensive zone with control of the puck. Zone entries are very important, and Ekblad is very good when it comes to gaining the line and setting up shop. This ability regularly leads to scoring chances for his team.
Weaknesses – Ekblad doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that lead me to believe there’s a chance he won’t develop into a quality NHLer, but there are aspects of his game he needs to improve on. First and foremost, I’d like to see him improve on his outlet passing. At times he misses open teammates with outlet passes, especially when trying to hit a moving target heading up ice on the opposite side. He also struggles with pivots in the defensive zone at times, which allows opposing forwards to get around him at times if he doesn’t stick check them or quickly knock them off the puck. He’s a pretty calm guy, but at times when he’s matched up against a big, physical forward he loses composure after taking some big hits. He’ll need to get better when it comes to dealing with true power forwards, as there are obviously some very big, strong guys in the NHL.
Career Projection – Ekblad is a pretty well-rounded defenseman, and even in worst case scenario should still be an NHL regular. If he touches up the aspects of his game I mentioned, he should be a top-pairing defenseman who can play on the penalty kill, and on the top power play unit. The safe prediction is he turns into a second pairing guy who should score at least 10 goals a year, but he has the potential to become a top pairing two-way defenseman who can pot 15-20 goals a year.
2014 Draft Eligible Prospect Profiles:
Sam Bennett – Kingston Frontenacs
Jared McCann – Soo Greyhounds
Robby Fabbri – Guelph Storm
Michael Amadio – North Bay Battalion
Michael Dal Colle – Oshawa Generals
Nick Ritchie – Peterborough Petes
Nikolay Goldobin – Sarnia Sting
Brendan Perlini – Niagara IceDogs
Brendan Lemieux – Barrie Colts
Josh Ho-Sang – Windsor Spitfires
Spencer Watson – Kingston Frontenacs
Eric Cornel – Peterborough Petes
Nicolas Aube-Kubel – Val d’Or Foreurs
Brett Pollock – Edmonton Oil Kings
Mads Eller – Edmonton Oil Kings
Anthony DeAngelo – Sarnia Sting
Roland McKeown – Kingston Frontenacs
Dysin Mayo – Edmonton Oil Kings
Follow Todd on twitter @ToddCordell
Follow Todd on twitter @ToddCordell