Scouts confident in NHL prospect Aaron Ekblad

Draft prospect Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts takes a breather on the stationary bike at the NHL...

Draft prospect Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts takes a breather on the stationary bike at the NHL combine on Saturday. Six NHL scouts say they'd pick Ekblad first overall at the draft. (AFP/PHOTO)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 PM ET

TORONTO - Six National Hockey League scouts, one question, the same answer each time.

Given a choice, which player would you select first overall in the draft in Philadelphia in four weeks?

Aaron Ekblad.

“Defencemen like him are so hard to come by,” said one scout, who agreed, like the others, to discuss his reasoning only in anonymity.

“He’s an NHL passer already. He’s the most flawless of the top players and he’s the most NHL-ready.”

Said another scout during the NHL combine on Saturday near Pearson Airport in Toronto: “Those guys are hard to find and when you don’t have one, you are trying to trade to get him. He’s a special player. He was made an exceptional player (for early entry into the Ontario Hockey League draft in 2011) for a reason. And he’s going to be doing the same things in 15 years.”

The Florida Panthers own the first pick, followed by the Buffalo Sabres at No. 2 and the Edmonton Oilers at No. 3. We’re told the Oilers, who desperately need help on the blue line, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have the eighth pick, would love to trade up and get their hands on the first pick.

If what the scouts are saying becomes fact, Ekblad would become the first defenceman to be selected with the top pick since Erik Johnson had the honour courtesy of the St. Louis Blues in 2006.

There’s little to pick apart in Ekblad’s abilities. At 6-foot-3 1/2 and 216 pounds, he has made a habit of commanding the game with each shift for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He was strong for Canada at the world junior this past winter in Sweden, and off the ice his maturity is another trademark. One scout said that Ekblad, who turned 18 in February, came across more as a 24-year-old during his team interview this past week.


Videos

Photos