21-Year-Old Defenseman – Florida Panthers
Aaron Ekblad Contract Information:
Signed an eight-year, $60 million contract extension with the Panthers in July of 2016.
Ekblad (neck, concussion) indicated that he was symptom-free when he returned to the lineup on March 21, but game action caused the symptoms to resurface, forcing him out of the season's final 10 games, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports.
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Aaron Ekblad: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
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 Panthersí top six, while potentially adding his big shot to the teamís 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.