Aaron Ekblad

Aaron Ekblad

28-Year-Old DefensemanD
Florida Panthers
2023 Fantasy Outlook
Ekblad buried 14 goals with 38 points in 71 games last season. That scoring pace of 0.54 points per game was his worst production since the 2018-19 campaign. He played through a myriad of injuries in the postseason, including a shoulder issue that required surgery, but he could be ready for the start of the 2023-24 season. Despite the offensive regression, Ekblad has pocketed double-digit goals in eight of his nine NHL campaigns; over the last three years, he ranks fifth among all blueliners with 40 goals. The 27-year-old will maintain top-pairing minutes in Florida as well as a spot on the top power-play unit. Ekblad will be considered a near-lock for at least 10 goals and, given his playing time, could get back to the 50-point range with a healthy season. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed an eight-year, $60 million contract extension with the Panthers in July of 2016.
Set to return Tuesday
DFlorida Panthers
February 19, 2024
Ekblad (lower body) is expected to be in the lineup versus the Senators on Tuesday, Jameson Olive of the Panthers' official site reports.
ANALYSIS
Ekblad has been struggling to produce offensively of late, as he has managed just one point in his last nine outings while adding 25 shots on goal, 15 hits and 12 blocked shots. The blueliner's return to action will likely lead to Josh Mahura getting scratched Tuesday.
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2023–24 Time On Ice Stats
  • Average Time On Ice:
    21:23
  • Average Power Play TOI:
    1:40
  • Average Short-Handed TOI:
    2:59
 
Ice Time
Power Play
Short-Handed
2021–22
24:55
3:31
2:48
2022–23
23:24
3:17
2:47
2023–24
21:23
1:40
2:59
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Panthers Power Play Depth Chart
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2022
2021
2020
2019
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2014
Ekblad's career year (15 goals, 57 points in 61 games) was derailed by a lower-body injury which cost him Florida's final 20 regular season games, but he made it back for Florida's 10-game playoff run and displayed no ill effects from the ailment. Ekblad's power-play time dropped 22 seconds a game from a year prior, but his 3:31 per game with the man advantage was more than enough for him to post 20 power-play points, including 17 helpers. The Panthers should once again be one of the NHL's best offensive teams again this coming year, making Ekblad a no-doubt No. 1 fantasy defenseman in any format.
Ekblad was in the midst of his best season to date in 2020-21 before a broken leg suffered in a game in Dallas in late March required surgery and ended his year. He's expected to be fully healthy for training camp, which is a massive development for an ascending Panthers team. Ekblad finished the campaign with 11 goals and 22 points in just 35 games. His 11 points with the man advantage tied a career high. Keith Yandle was bought out and signed with the Flyers this offseason, leaving Ekblad locked in as the quarterback for Florida's loaded No. 1 power-play unit. He's going to provide a massive amount of fantasy value even if and when his 10.9 shooting percentage from a season ago comes back to earth. Invest with confidence here.
Ekblad had yet another strong season in 2019-20, tallying five goals, 36 assists and 147 shots on goal while posting a plus-12 rating in 67 games. The 24-year-old blueliner did fail to crack the double-digit goal mark for the first time since entering the league as an 18 year old in 2014, but that can largely be attributed to a combination of the NHL's shortened regular season and his abnormally low 3.4 shooting percentage. Ekblad should bounce back and produce at a double-digit goal, 35-plus point pace while averaging over two shots per contest in 2020-21, making him a solid third or fourth fantasy option on the blue line.
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.
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
Not playing Saturday
DFlorida Panthers
Lower Body
February 17, 2024
Ekblad (lower body) won't play Saturday versus the Lightning, according to Jameson Olive of the Panthers' official site.
ANALYSIS
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Takes seven shots
DFlorida Panthers
February 9, 2024
Ekblad recorded seven shots against Washington on Thursday.
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Drops four even-strength points
DFlorida Panthers
January 20, 2024
Ekblad earned a goal, three assists, and a plus-4 rating in Friday's 6-4 loss to the Wild.
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Picks up power-play helper
DFlorida Panthers
January 4, 2024
Ekblad notched a power-play assist, four shots on goal and four PIM in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Golden Knights.
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Good to go
DFlorida Panthers
December 18, 2023
Ekblad (lower body) will return to the lineup Monday against Calgary, per Jameson Olive of the Panthers' official site.
ANALYSIS
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