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Aaron Ekblad
Ekblad with the Panthers in 2023
Born (1996-02-07) February 7, 1996 (age 28)
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Weight 220 lb (100 kg; 15 st 10 lb)
Position Defence
Shoots Right
NHL team Florida Panthers
National team Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada
NHL Draft 1st overall, 2014
Florida Panthers
Playing career 2014–present

Aaron Ekblad (born February 7, 1996) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman and alternate captain for the Florida Panthers in the National Hockey League (NHL). Ekblad was selected first overall in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) entry draft, and he was selected first overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and made his NHL debut that year. In his first NHL season, Ekblad was selected for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game and earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's best rookie in the 2014–15 season.

Prior to joining the NHL, Ekblad played major junior hockey for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League. He was granted "Exceptional Player" status unanimously by Hockey Canada, thus allowing him to play major junior a year early. Ekblad has played more games and scored more points than any other defenseman in Florida Panthers franchise history.

Playing career


Aaron Ekblad June 2011
Ekblad at a community event in Barrie in June 2011, shortly after being drafted by the Barrie Colts

In 2010–11, Ekblad competed for the Sun County Panthers minor midget AAA team in Belle River, Ontario. He had 34 points in 30 regular season games and added 21 points in 18 playoff games. He captained the team and lead them to an alliance championship.

Ekblad's application to be the only player born in 1996 in the CHL draft was approved unanimously, after a six-week review by Hockey Canada. With the approval, Ekblad became the first defenceman ever granted "exceptional player" status. The status allowed him to compete in the Canadian Hockey League a year earlier than his eligible age. The only other players to have been given such eligibility are centre John Tavares in 2005, Connor McDavid in 2012, Sean Day in 2013, Joe Veleno in 2015, Shane Wright in 2019, Connor Bedard in 2020 and Michael Misa in 2022.

In the 2014 OHL Coaches Poll, the results of which were released in Toronto, he won top honours in four different categories in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario Hockey League, earning first-place finishes for best shot, hardest shot, best offensive defenceman, and best defensive defenceman. He was also voted second in the category of best penalty killer, behind Oshawa Generals forward Scott Laughton.


Florida Panthers

Ekblad was selected first overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers on June 27, 2014. He subsequently signed his first NHL contract on September 3, a three-year, entry-level deal with the Panthers. After making the Panthers' opening night roster out of training camp for the 2014–15 season, Ekblad made his NHL debut on October 9 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the game, he scored his first career NHL point, an assist on a Jonathan Huberdeau goal, in Florida's eventual 3–2 loss in overtime. Ekblad later scored his first career NHL goal on November 1 against Steve Mason of the Philadelphia Flyers in a 2–1 Panthers win.

On December 6, in a game against the Buffalo Sabres, Ekblad scored a career-high three points in a 3–2 Panthers victory, the first Panthers rookie to record a three-point game since Dan Boyle during the 1998–99 season. Ekblad was also named the game's first star for his performance. On January 23, 2015, Ekblad was named as an injury replacement for Colorado Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. In the Game, Ekblad recorded four assists in Team Toews' 17–12 victory over Team Foligno.

Ekblad finished his rookie season with 12 goals and 27 assists (39 points) in 81 games played for Florida. Following the conclusion of his rookie season, Ekblad led all rookie defensemen in goals, power play goals (6), power play points (13), shots (170) and fewest shot attempts against per 60 minutes (38.04). He also finished second in assists, plus-minus (+12), hits (109) and blocked shots (80), while also averaging 21:48 of ice time per game. Ekblad also set a new franchise record for rookie defensemen in goals, assists, and points, surpassing Ed Jovanovski. On April 23, Ekblad was named one of three finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy — awarded annually to the NHL's rookie of the year — along with the Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone and Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau. On June 24, 2015, Ekblad was announced as the Calder winner.

Karson Kuhlman and Aaron Ekblad
Elkblad with the Florida Panthers in 2022.

During the following season, Ekblad missed four games in January to recover from a concussion he had endured from a hit delivered by Edmonton Oilers Matt Hendricks. Hendricks was suspended three games for the hit.

On July 2, 2016, Ekblad and the Panthers agreed to an eight-year, $60 million extension. He was also named an alternate captain. During the 2016–17 season, Ekblad suffered another concussion during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and missed four games.

On February 3, 2018, Ekblad became the 15th defenseman in NHL history to reach double-digits in goals in each of his first four seasons.

On March 28, 2021, Ekblad was stretchered off the ice following a collision with Dallas Stars' defenseman Esa Lindell. He underwent surgery to repair a left leg fracture the following day and was ruled out for 12 weeks, effectively ending his season.

On March 18, 2022, Ekblad recorded three assists in a 5–3 loss against the Vegas Golden Knights, giving him 291 career points, the most by a defenseman in the franchise history of the Panthers, surpassing Róbert Švehla. On December 16, Ekblad played his 574th NHL game, a 4–2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, surpassing Švehla for most games played by a defenseman in Panthers' history.

International play

Medal record
Representing Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada
Ice hockey
World Championships
Gold 2015 Czech Republic
Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament
Gold 2013 Czech Republic

During Team Canada junior team's training camp in August 2014 in preparation for the upcoming 2015 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in December 2014, Ekblad suffered a concussion in an exhibition game against the Czech Republic.

Ekblad played for Canada at the 2015 World Championships, where they won the gold medal for the first time since 2007 with a perfect 10-0 record.

Ekblad was invited to the play for Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Team North America was a newly formed team that consisted of hockey players aged 23 or younger. He was later named an alternate captain along with Sean Couturier. During the tournament, he suffered an upper body injury and had to leave the team early.

On April 12, 2018, Ekblad was named to Team Canada's senior team to compete at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.

Personal life

Ekblad's brother Darien, a goaltender, was drafted into the OHL by the London Knights. Aaron Ekblad attended Innisdale Secondary School and was an honour roll student in the Simcoe County District School Board. Ekblad was born in Windsor, but grew up in Belle River, Ontario. His great-grandfather was Swedish, hence the last name "Ekblad".

During his rookie year Ekblad lived with veteran Willie Mitchell and his wife Megan.

On July 30, 2022, Ekblad married his longtime girlfriend, Dayna Mastronardi, in Miami Beach.

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2011–12 Barrie Colts OHL 63 10 19 29 34 13 2 3 5 8
2012–13 Barrie Colts OHL 54 7 27 34 64 22 7 10 17 28
2013–14 Barrie Colts OHL 58 23 30 53 91 9 2 4 6 14
2014–15 Florida Panthers NHL 81 12 27 39 32
2015–16 Florida Panthers NHL 78 15 21 36 41 6 0 1 1 0
2016–17 Florida Panthers NHL 68 10 11 21 58
2017–18 Florida Panthers NHL 82 16 22 38 71
2018–19 Florida Panthers NHL 82 13 24 37 47
2019–20 Florida Panthers NHL 67 5 36 41 26 4 0 0 0 2
2020–21 Florida Panthers NHL 35 11 11 22 33
2021–22 Florida Panthers NHL 61 15 42 57 26 10 1 4 5 11
2022–23 Florida Panthers NHL 71 14 24 38 68 20 2 6 8 20
NHL totals 625 111 218 329 402 40 3 11 14 33


Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
2012 Canada Ontario U17 5 1 2 3 4
2013 Canada Ontario U17 5 2 4 6 4
2013 Canada IH18 5 2 2 4 4
2014 Canada WJC 7 1 1 2 2
2015 Canada WC 10 4 3 7 6
2016 Team North America WCH 1 0 0 0 0
Junior totals 22 6 9 15 14
Senior totals 11 4 3 7 6

Awards and honours

Award Year
Jack Ferguson Award – OHL Priority Selection Draft Top Pick 2011
Emms Family Award – Rookie of the Year 2012
Max Kaminsky Trophy – Top Defenceman 2014
First All-Star Team 2014
All-Star Game 2015, 2016
Calder Memorial Trophy 2015
All-Rookie Team 2015
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