Kukla's Korner Hockey
Entries with the tag: aaron ekblad
from Katie Baker of Grantland,
“You don’t even want to know what’s been going on at my house,” said Megan Mitchell, and for once she wasn’t referring to a lively dinner party, a messy cooking class, or a late-late-night fishing session off the backyard dock. Her eyes were bright but battle-weary; they had the sanity-deprived look you might see in a mother of triplets or a junior investment banker. She’d been through some shit.
It’s one thing to share a house with a 6-foot-plus, 200-pound-plus NHL player suffering from what his team gently describes as “flu-like symptoms.” But it’s quite another to have to deal with two of them.
Both of Megan’s roommates had come home from work infected with some sort of superbug — “the norovirus,” is how she diagnosed it — that turned her serene home into a makeshift infectious diseases ward. One was her husband, Willie Mitchell, the 37-year-old captain of the Florida Panthers. The other was 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the promising young rookie she sometimes calls her son.
When the Mitchells relocated from Southern California to South Florida this summer, they had no idea they’d wind up harboring a teen.
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
Dale Tallon cannot tell a lie. He knew Aaron Ekblad was good, just not this good.
The 18-year-old Ekblad, youngest player in the NHL, might be Drew Doughty good, although with a bigger chassis at 225 pounds. Not Doughty good today, of course, but let’s see in a year or two. Tallon, once a junior defenceman like Ekblad, who went second overall in 1970 to centre Gil Perreault, walks around with a perma-smile in Florida. The No. 1 pick last June could be the NHL’s best rookie because he plays the toughest position, plus he’s the baby of the Calder litter, but Filip Forsberg, the Nashville right-winger, who may get 65 points, is more visible on stats sheets.
That said, Ekblad is something else, and, to this day, Tallon, the Panthers’ GM, is very grateful he resisted the urge to fill several holes on his club to move back a few spots with a big draft-day trade last June.
“He’s been phenomenal,” said Tallon.
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
It’s good to be Aaron Ekblad. It’s good to be around Aaron Ekblad and his combination of maturity and youth, poise and skill. He has five goals and 18 points in his first 28 games in the NHL – third among rookies, first among rookie defensemen – while averaging 21:56 of ice time and playing a top-four role. He’s a reason the Panthers are competing for a playoff spot.
“He doesn’t play like an 18-year-old,” said goaltender Roberto Luongo. “He plays like he’s been in the league 18 years.”
Nothing fazes him. His welcome-to-the-NHL moment came Dec. 2 when the Panthers played for the first time in Detroit. He grew up across the river in Windsor, Ont., going to games at Joe Louis Arena, rooting for the Red Wings, idolizing Nicklas Lidstrom. He had family and friends in the stands. When he lined up for the opening faceoff, he found himself across from Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg – the guys he used to watch. But listen to how he described it. No awe. No sense of accomplishment.
“Just a really special, surreal feeling,” Ekblad said. “Not an ‘I made it’ feeling or anything like that, but just more of a cool challenge. Just the realization that this is where I am and this is the kind of challenge that I’m going to face and I want to rise to the challenge.”
from Bob Duff of the Windsor Star,
“He’s real impressive,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “How many D-men have seven points in their last five games?
“He’s just a kid, but obviously with size and skill and skating – but his smarts, and his ability to get the puck through from the point – I don’t know, you don’t want to say too much too early.”
Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman and Florida TV analyst Denis Potvin jumped right from the Ottawa 67’s to the New York Islanders in 1973 and can understand better than most the significance of what Ekblad is currently achieving.
“I’ve seen a lot of young defencemen come up, really good kids who are out there in the league right now,” Potvin said. “They’ve got skill, the shot, the size and can skate – but they don’t think the game like this kid.
“That’s what is so impressive about him to me.”
from Matthew DeFrank of the Sun Sentinel,
Just two months into Aaron Ekblad's NHL career, it seems like nothing the 18-year-old does is surprising anymore.
Leading the Panthers in assists? Ho-hum. Third among NHL rookies in scoring? Okay. Even his three-assist performance on Saturday night against Buffalo drew a tempered response from Panthers coach Gerard Gallant.
"He played a good game [Saturday] night but he's been good all season long," Gallant said. "I don't think last night was an outstanding game for him. It was a good game, but he's had a lot of those."
While good games have become the norm for the No. 1 overall pick, the Panthers have also become accustomed to Ekblad firing shots from the point to create offensive opportunities. He is tied for the team lead with 17 points.
This time the Hockey Night in Canada segment in which Elliotte Friedman and Damien Cox dish news and notes has been geo-blocked to Canada only (Paul sent me an email informing me of the "stuff we already know" in that Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha is skating with the Grand Rapids Griffins, hopefully making his pro debut in about two weeks, but Daniel Alfredsson is not and may retire), but Friedman did offer some Twitter quips from his exchange, beginning with Ryan McDonagh's separated shoulder yielding interest in Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera (who is "on the block"):
Ekblad scored his first goal, a game-winning marker in Florida's 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday evening...
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Tags: aaron+ekblad, andrej+sekera, boston+bruins, carolina+hurricanes, claude+julien, daniel+alfredsson, detroit+red+wings, florida+panthers, new+york+rangers, ryan+mcdonagh
"He's an 18-year-old kid and we know he's going to be a great hockey player. But this is a big step. A lot of people can attest that playing defense at 18 in the NHL means you have to be a special player. We're going to go game-by-game and see how he gets along. We're not going to rush anyone.''
-Gerard Gallant, head coach of the Florida Panthers on #1 pick Aaron Ekblad. More on Ekblad from George Richards of On Frozen Pond.
from Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel,
As Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad dug the puck out of the corner during a half-ice drill during the first prospects practice Friday morning at the team facility, all eyes were on him, particularly an interested set owned by NHL legend Denis Potvin.
The comparisons are obvious. Potvin, who's back for a second stint as Panthers television analyst, was also the overall No. 1 draft pick, albeit 31 years earlier in 1973. Both are from Ontario and considered offensive-defensemen. Both wore No. 5 on their backs and both were expected to make an immediate impact in the NHL as teenagers.
Potvin did. The Panthers are hoping Ekblad will....
"[Ekblad's] not as good-looking as I was,'' joked Potvin, who had 54 points his first year and 310 career goals to go with a career plus-minus of 460, sixth best all-time. "The first thing I saw was great hands. When they were battling he protected the puck well and passed the puck well, which is important. He got a puck on the boards and made a saucer pass all the way to the blue line, which is nice!
"But the most important aspect of his development is how closely he gets to his coach, who will have the ultimate decision; that's where you're going to grow.''
from the Florida Panthers,
Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with D Aaron Ekblad.
“We are very pleased to have signed Aaron,” said Tallon. “He is a talented, strong, smart and hardworking defenseman who is ready to take the next step in his professional career. We look forward to watching him compete and develop at our prospects camp, throughout our main training camp and in preseason competition.”
from John Chidley-Hill of the Globe and Mail,
Aaron Ekblad is getting back to work.
The first overall draft pick of the Florida Panthers said on Saturday he’s free of any concussion-like symptoms less than three weeks after he took a hard hit in a world junior exhibition game.
“The concussion is perfectly, completely gone. I feel great,” said Ekblad. “I’ve been skating all this week, working out all this week. It’s gone. I feel great.”
The 18-year-old defenceman from Windsor, Ont., was injured on Aug. 6 at Canada’s world junior training camp in a game against the Czech Republic. The Canadians went on to win 6-2, but Hockey Canada and the Panthers agreed to keep Ekblad off the ice for the rest of the team’s summer development camp.
The Florida Panthers nearly stole the spotlight away from the Wings and Leafs during HBO's 24/7 series, and of the Atlantic Division's non-playoff teams I'd argue that the franchise may be a Phoenix Coyotes East off the ice (their financial situation is quite the mess), but on the ice, the Panthers have the greatest chance of serving as not only a playoff spoiler for their Eastern Conference opponents, but also a potential playoff-qualifying team.
NHL.com's "30 in 30" series profiles the Pantehrs today, and they note that Dale Tallon was predictably aggressive in improving the Panthers' roster over the past half-year, trading for Roberto Luongo and signing Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell and another former Blackhawk (the Panthers have more than a few players from Tallon's previous employer's team) in David Bolland; they note that the Panthers' top prospect, Aaron Ekblad, is probably NHL-ready, and of course the Panthers hired a new coaching staff headlined by Gerard Gallant, too...
And in addition to discussing Ekblad's would-be defensive partners and "5 Questions" that the team faces going into the 14-15 season, NHL.com's Alain Poupart engages in a conversation with Tallon that, let's say involves personnel moves which allow more substantive, "We aren't that far off" talk than what was issued by Saturday's profiled team:
from Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News,
So I’m not surprised that Florida Panthers prospect Aaron Ekblad wanted to play at Canada’s world junior exhibition camp in Quebec. But why would the Panthers allow the No. 1 overall pick to play in the mini-tournament against the Czechs and Russians?
In speaking with execs from other teams (attempts to reach the Panthers were unsuccessful), they always like having their top prospects put in situations where they can develop, so it’s not crazy that Florida would want their most prominent draft pick to take on a leadership role in the summer and get some reps as he prepares for his first NHL training camp. Unfortunately, injuries are an unpredictable part of the game.
And after seeing their prized prospect get hurt Tuesday night on a hit from Czech defenseman Lukas Klok, the Panthers must be feeling like they rolled snake eyes.
For me, the question is this: What are the odds Ekblad actually plays for Canada at the world juniors this year? Florida may have some nice young defensemen in the pipeline, but there’s no reason to believe Ekblad can’t find a place in the team’s top six this fall. He has already played three years in the Ontario League with Barrie and his pedigree practically dictates that he will jump straight to the NHL.
more including a gif of the hit...
SUNRISE, Fla. – As announced earlier today by Team Canada, D Aaron Ekblad suffered a concussion during an exhibition game last night. We have been in communication with Team Canada and have mutually agreed to hold Aaron out for the remainder of the summer development camp, as a precautionary measure. We will closely monitor Aaron’s health for the remainder of the off-season and expect him to be ready for our rookie camp in mid-September.
Oilers TV's Tom Gazzola caught the Florida Panthers' #1 overall pick meeting the press after exiting stage right:
Gary Bettman isn't kidding when he shakes the hand of every kid who shows up to the draft and takes the stage in the first round and says, "Welcome to the NHL."
In the 2nd through 7th rounds, picks are made at teams' draft tables, but the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle noted that Calgary Flames prospects will see something that might stick out a weeeeee little bit, as posted by the Score's Thomas Drance:
Welcome to the Flames, where truculence is mandatory and flow is optional.
The Florida Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Filakov reports two important items regarding the Florida Panthers' coaching and draft plans.
First, Filakov reports that the Panthers will interview former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma before circling back to a set of coaches who will speak with the Panthers' new ownership regarding their coaching philosophies...
The Panthers coaching search will pick up steam this week as six front-runners for the vacancy, including fired Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, will meet with the team's brain-trust in New York City, according to a team source.
Other than Bylsma, the other five leading candidates have all met or spoke to General Manager Dale Tallon, but now will also sit down with the team's co-owners, Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, as well as CEO/President Rory Babich.
Those repeaters are believed to be Ron Wilson, Canadiens' assistant Gerard Gallant, former Stanley Cup — winning coach Marc Crawford, and Red Wings' assistants Tom Renney and Bill Peters.
While Filakov continues at significant length regarding the coaching search and the Panthers' hopes that they can land one of Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen if Bylsma joins the Panthers, this tidbit about the Panthers' draft plans is a wee bit more newsworthy:
A feature on top prospect Aaron Ekblad and again, a well done production.