Following a relatively successful 2019 campaign, Aaron Ekblad has played like a top-tier defenseman for the Florida Panthers during the 2020 NHL season, thus far.
The past two seasons were notably decent for Aaron Ekblad from a production standpoint. During the 2017-18 season, Ekblad managed to participate in all 82 regular-season contests, producing a career-high mark of 16 goals. Also, Ekblad tacked on 22 assists to give him a 38-point showing on the season.
Furthermore, Ekblad produced an exceptional +9 rating on defense while averaging roughly 23 minutes of ice time per game. Moreover, Ekblad played a tremendous physical style of game, adding 121 blocked shots as well as 69 hits on the year.
However, despite the tremendous all-around play by Ekblad, he still possessed some flaws in his game. To start, he turned over the puck a bit too much, racking up a total of 99 giveaways during the 2018 season. As well, Ekblad would sometimes experience issues with positioning, skating, and staying toe-to-toe with the opposing forward.
The 2018 season was certainly encouraging for Ekblad, but the 2019 year proved to be a minor regression in Ekblad’s development into a superstar defenseman. The native of Canada would play in a full season, recording a slash line of 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 total points.
However, Ekblad was quite subpar on the defensive end more often than not. Aaron did produce a +1 rating but recorded a whopping 122 turnovers while averaging almost 24 minutes per game. The defensive system of former head coach Bob Boughner seemingly stalled his growth and development.
Ekblad was severely overplayed and coached poorly last season, which led to some questionable play; however, since the arrival of new head coach Joel Quenneville, Aaron Ekblad has looked like a stud on the blue line for the Cats.
The Florida Panthers are currently sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division largely due to the success of their No. 1 defenseman. The former number one overall pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Level Draft has produced remarkable results, offensively and defensively.
While participating in 47 games, Ekblad has registered a solid line of 5 goals and 23 assists for 28 points. While the goals are certainly down for Ekblad, the 23 assists demonstrate that he has developed into a sensational passer and facilitator for his fellow teammates.
Also, the 23-year-old has recorded a sensational +12 rating while playing in nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game. Furthermore, Ekblad has contributed 62 blocked shots and 22 hits, while recording an improved turnover (53) to takeaway (26) ratio than in years past.
Essentially, at the mid-way point of the 2020 season, Ekblad has finally emerged as a star-caliber defenseman at the NHL level. Aaron Ekblad has bought into Coach Q’s defensive scheme and has excelled rather brilliantly under the likes of Quenneville.
Despite some Panthers fans initially having doubts regarding Ekblad’s growth and development, his performance throughout the course of the season has put those doubts to rest. Coach Q will continue to depend heavily on the former Calder Trophy winner if the Cats hope to clinch a playoff berth by the conclusion of the season.
The current star-studded defenseman for the Florida Panthers has certainly earned that long-term extension he signed years ago. Ultimately, Ekblad is currently a star defenseman in the NHL and the top option on the blue line for the Cats moving forward.