Canucks Army draft prospect profile #4 - Aaron Ekblad

Cam Charron
June 23 2014 04:15PM

The crop of defencemen taken in the first five picks of the draft since 2005 include Jack and Erik Johnson, Thomas Hickey, Karl Alzner, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn, Victor Hedman, Erik Gudbranson and Adam Larsson, and what makes Aaron Ekblad such a controversial choice to be selected high in the draft is that so few of those players have developed into top pairing defencemen, while many forwards taken over the same span are stars on their respective teams.

Ekblad is one of those players you can dream on. He skates much better than he did a couple of years ago when he first joined the OHL with his massive frame. He's big. He hits. He possesses a cannon of a shot, terrific puck skills, and a rarity in that he was a 17-year-old defenceman to arguably be the best player on his team.

Like Jake Virtanen, if you pass on Ekblad and he becomes the player that he's projected to be, you will regret it for the rest of your managerial career.

AARON EKBLAD - Barrie (OHL)
Position: D
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 216 lbs
Birthdate: February 7 1996

There's "toolsy" and then there are players who have already converted those tools to on-ice performance. There shouldn't be any doubt that Ekblad is a big reason why the Colts transitioned so well out of the Mark Scheifele and Mathias Niederberger era. Despite a rookie starting goaltender who was 12th in the OHL in save percentage, Barrie was 7th in the league in overall goals against, with Ekblad likely playing well over 25 minutes a night.

Last year, Corey Pronman wrestled with his prospect rankings before settling on ranking Jonathan Drouin first and Nathan MacKinnon second, writing that "to put it simply, Drouin and MacKinnon are ranked ahead of [Seth Jones] because of his position."

This year, Pronman has ranked Ekblad first, atop a large grouping of forwards:

It's rare that we encounter a big, strong defender like Ekblad with the natural hockey skills he has. You add to that his high-end to elite hockey IQ in both ends of the rink, and a huge shot, and the total package looks like a player who has an NHL All-Star floor, and the ceiling of an elite NHL defenseman.

The good news is that the Canucks probably aren't going to be in a position to take Ekblad. They also don't have the obvious positional need at defence like Florida, Buffalo, or Edmonton do and be tempted by Ekblad. While all of his tools have allowed him to do very well at the OHL level, and his big frame and shot helped him dominate minor hockey which is why he was given exceptional player status in 2011 and drafted first overall at age 15, those skills become less and less valuable the better your competition gets.

Again, Ekblad isn't a big empty box, meaning he's got size and scouts like it when he hits people. Rhys wrote up a post last year noting that the junior defencemen with the most NHL success are basically the ones who score the most goals and points in their draft year. Ekblad was tops in goals (23) and sixth in points and among draft-eligibles only Anthony DeAngelo was in Ekblad's league in points per game.

Basically, the only thing that should stop you from wanting to draft Aaron Ekblad is that you have a philosophical aversion to drafting defencemen high, and that's completely understandable.

Rather than a compilation video, here's highlights of Ekblad's four-goal game against Kingston this season, just to remind you that there is a 17-year-old defenceman who was able to score four goals in an OHL game. Frank Corrado, a Canucks selection in 2011 who is an outside shot to make the NHL team just three years later, scored four goals in his entire draft year:

Rankings:

Aaron Ekblad
Cam 6
Dimitri 2
Josh 4
Rhys 5
Thomas 2

PREVIOUS PROSPECT PROFILES

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#2 Rob
June 23 2014, 05:05PM
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I think it's more likely that it's "Nick Ritchie, not even an honourable mention to the top 15."

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#3 Chrìs
June 23 2014, 05:24PM
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@Rob

So Reinhart, Bennett, in whatever order. (I look forward to reading the why behind it) Then a mystery person, if it's not Ritchie then who would it be?

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#4 Peachy
June 23 2014, 05:29PM
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Chrìs wrote:

So Reinhart, Bennett, in whatever order. (I look forward to reading the why behind it) Then a mystery person, if it's not Ritchie then who would it be?

I'm sure it's because Ritchie is ranked above first, at zero, much like top prospect LUDWIG BLOMSTRAND!!! was in last year's prospect ranking.

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#5 Rob
June 23 2014, 05:30PM
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Maybe I missed something, but I didn't think Nylander had been ranked yet.

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#6 Chrìs
June 23 2014, 05:32PM
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Nvm forgot about nylander....... Excuse while I go cry in the corner. I hate you dimitri lol.

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#7 chrìs
June 23 2014, 06:48PM
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@Cam Charron

well at least bob mckenzie has got my back

http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=95289

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#8 Reuben
June 23 2014, 07:53PM
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Rob wrote:

I think it's more likely that it's "Nick Ritchie, not even an honourable mention to the top 15."

Ha! I have him at 16.

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#9 Reuben
June 23 2014, 08:49PM
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Chrìs wrote:

So Reinhart, Bennett, in whatever order. (I look forward to reading the why behind it) Then a mystery person, if it's not Ritchie then who would it be?

My guess: Nylander

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#10 acg5151
June 23 2014, 10:14PM
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Don't really understand making fun of Ritchie in the top 15 here guys. I realize that he is getting a little overrared from the big tuff crowd but he scored a solid amount of points and is big and physical. I don't see any way that he should be out of the top 15 in is draft. He maybe shouldn't be in the top 10 but there is no way I would have Brayden Point or Jake Virtanen ranked ahead of him, for instance.

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#11 Fogghorn
June 23 2014, 10:51PM
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Ritchie has David Perron upside and Kyle Beach downside. This years draft may not have the top talent of 13 or 15 but it is ridiculously deep. He belongs in the 15-25 range

calling on Rhys's work http://thats-offside.blogspot.ca/2014/06/adjusted-draft-year-scoring-for-chl.html

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#12 Locky
June 24 2014, 04:46AM
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I don't know about Ekblad high up in this draft. The relative lack of defencemen certainly makes him seem very good by comparison.

His % of powerplay points concerns me, considering that someone like Haydn Fluery has exactly the same ES points/60mins. Fair enough, he has a good point shot, but if i'm drafting a #1D, I want to be dazzled by point production (being perhaps the best estimate of future success).

At 6, i'm all aboard the Ekblad train. At #1, not so much.

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#13 Locky
June 24 2014, 04:49AM
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Fogghorn wrote:

Ritchie has David Perron upside and Kyle Beach downside. This years draft may not have the top talent of 13 or 15 but it is ridiculously deep. He belongs in the 15-25 range

calling on Rhys's work http://thats-offside.blogspot.ca/2014/06/adjusted-draft-year-scoring-for-chl.html

Richie, like all others, has the potential to bust.

But I think you're underestimating his upside. His number look good compared to guys like Landeskog, Horton and very similar to E.Kane's:

http://lastwordonsports.com/2014/06/19/nhl-draft-statistics-ohl-whl-big-board/

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#14 Mantastic
June 24 2014, 11:17AM
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these rankings went off the rails after 6.

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#15 GI Moe
June 25 2014, 02:29AM
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@Mantastic

Personally, I agree with the top 7 but yeah "off the rails" is probably about the nicest way of assessing the bottom of this list. Talk about underestimating the combination of size and skill...

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