The Florida Panthers defense is in good hands for years to come, with guys like Aaron Ekblad and Michael Matheson leading the core. A new coach will hopefully be able to come in and utilize the young talent the way it should’ve been last season.
So an interesting question to pose would be, which of the 2 defenseman has a higher ceiling?
There’s a few ways to approach this because I believe they both can be great in this league for a long time. Ekblad is poised to break out this season while Matheson continues to show his great skating and puck moving abilities.
Ekblad is coming off an especially tough 2016-17 campaign in which he played a career low 68 games. March 11th he would sustain another concussion, against the Tampa Bay Lightning causing him to miss 14 games.
So for starters, staying healthy and concussion free especially will be key for the 21 year old. A different partner may also serve him well since Jakub Kindl is not an NHL player and Keith Yandle just wasn’t working out.
With 227 NHL games logged already in his young career, I think we’ll begin to see the true emergence of Aaron Ekblad in 2017. Coming into the league he was guided by fellow D Men but now it may be his turn to take the lead.
All he’ll need is the new coach to come in and instill the confidence back that he’s lost. Ek already being a natural leader, could take Michael Matheson under his wing and make for a great first pairing.
Matheson had a bittersweet confidence booster in Cologne at the IIHF Worlds. After putting up 1 goal and 6 assists in the tournament, he’d take home a silver medal after losing to Sweden in the gold medal match.
He played solid hockey in both ends throughout the tournament and was even given power play time. After what I saw from him there’s no doubt, he should’ve been walking the line on the Panthers atrocious power play last season.
Matheson’s defensive style may not be very physical but is still effective especially with the poke check, racking up 48 takeaways in 2016-17. He also blocked a team leading 118 shots, so while he may not throw big hits, he still sacrifices the body.
So when it comes down to who I believe has the higher ceiling personally I have to go with Aaron Ekblad. While they both host similar skill sets I think Ek is well rounded and has been a future Norris winner since coming into the league.
This is no knock to Michael Matheson because it’s really not an easy decision. He’ll make for a great quarterback on the power play if given the opportunity.