Team: Barrie Colts (OHL)
Hometown: Belle River, Ontario
Projected: Top 5
Aaron Ekblad, the highest ranked defenseman in central scouting, is a big two-way defenseman. He has a good shot, moves the puck well, and uses his size and strength impressively. He is so good that he was granted exceptional status by the OHL at the age of 15, only the second player in that league to receive that honor.
Ekblad's physical dominance and solid all-around play can be compared to Chris Pronger. Ekblad has been ranked as high as first overall and, due to Seth Jones' success in the NHL, it wouldn't be surprising if he stayed at that spot.
"He's smart and an excellent all-round skater for his size [6-3.5, 216]," Marr said. "He handles and distributes the puck well in all zones, passes with authority and possesses an accurate shot from the point."
"When you build a team, you need a solid foundation. Aaron is a pillar defenceman who can play 25 minutes or more and do so in all important situations. His on-ice maturity is exceptional."
Where He Would Fit
Keeping in mind the Nashville Predators would have to be terrible for the rest of the season to get Ekblad, when you look at Ekblad you're looking at the complete package. He can pass, shoot, score, play defense well, play offense well, hit, etc. Because of this, if the Predators have anything less than the second overall pick they shouldn't and can't pass him over. I could see them maybe picking Bennett or Reinhart above him but, other than that, they're not getting a better player out of this draft.
Surprisingly, the Predators' depth chart is fairly slim at right defense. If they drafted Ekblad, he might become the only NHL talent for the Preds on the right side that is not already in the NHL, besides Charles Oliver Roussell. Even Roussell's chances of playing in the NHL are not good.
While Ekblad would fill that need on the depth chart, it would not be long before the Predators would be faced with a conundrum just like they did with Jones. The Predators are already set in the NHL with Weber, Jones and Ellis, and Ekblad could be NHL-ready as soon as next season.
If the Predators have the third pick or later, they most likely couldn't justify passing over Ekblad if he were to be available. With that knowledge, they could either take Ekblad in the draft, trade one of the Predators' current right defenseman (perhaps Shea Weber?), or trade the pick.
Information also obtained from eliteprospects.com, NHL.com, and draftsite.com.