Friday, December 12, 2014

Aaron Ekblad is Giving the Florida Panthers Reason to Believe

Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad has been producing at a torrid pace for an 18-year-old blueliner this year in Florida. One of only 11 18-year-old defenseman to have played in an NHL game in the last 20 years, Ekblad is already on pace to become the second highest-scoring 18-year-old defenseman.

Ekblad is a plus-six on a minus-ten team, and though he has been helped along by being paired with the poised and dynamic Brian Campbell in Florida, it's clear that the rookie is a candidate for the Calder after his first 26 games.

There have been plenty of 19-year-old defensemen who have made big impacts in their rookie year, but Ekblad is one of the few 18-year-olds to have stepped in and made a difference so young. In terms of points per game, he's head and shoulders above the other four 18-year-old blueliners that have played 20 or more games in a season since 1994-95.

But let' not judge Ekblad against other 18-year-olds. Instead, let's look at what he's doing in the here and now, against the big, bad boys of the NHL. He's tied for 11th in the league in points (and tied for 10th in goals). Not bad at all.

For comparison's sake, here's a look at all the NHL rookie defenseman that have played in five or more games. Only one other (Mirco Mueller of San Jose) is a teenager but, more important, none come close to Ekblad's production at this stage of the campaign. It's early yet, but Aaron Ekblad is making a case for the Calder already, as well as getting management and the fan base excited about Florida Panther hockey.

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