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Ekblad learns lessons from Panthers prospect camp

Monday, 07.21.2014 / 1:17 PM / News
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Ekblad learns lessons from Panthers prospect camp
After Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad wrapped up his first professional development camp, the first pick in the 2014 NHL\u2008Draft wasn\'t quite sure what was next on his agenda.

After Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad wrapped up his first professional development camp, the first pick in the 2014 NHL Draft wasn't quite sure what was next on his agenda.

Perhaps he would attend a camp in Cape Cod conducted by Panthers skating and skills coach Paul Vincent. Or maybe he would stay in Ontario and focus on off-ice training.

Either way, Ekblad is going to be working. The development camp provided him with an idea of what it would take to earn a spot on Florida's roster in training camp and he'll spend the rest of the summer with that thought in mind.

"I loved it," Ekblad said after development camp ended. "I had a lot of fun from the very beginning, learning quite a few pretty important lessons I can take into the rest of the summer. Obviously I still have a lot of hard work to go through to make this team in September."

The most important lesson might have come from longtime NHL defenseman and Panthers manager of player development Bryan McCabe.

"Just how much it takes," Ekblad said. "We had a good talk with Mr. McCabe. It's just amazing how much mental toughness and how physically and mentally prepared you have to be to make it to the next level. It's a big jump and I'm really excited and aware of what I have to do."

Ekblad, 18, showed off his offensive skills during a scrimmage on the last day of camp, blasting a slap shot past goalie prospect Evan Cowley.

Afterward, Ekblad said he was less than happy with his scrimmage performance from a defensive aspect. That's one area of focus for him over the next several weeks, along with skating and getting stronger.

"I need to work on everything," he said. "Skating is one of the things I focus on the most considering it's a fast-paced game in the NHL and that's what I need to work on the most. ... Any time you can get a little bit stronger, it's really important. I want to get a little bit stronger, upper and lower body. The full realm of my game needs to get better before I can play in the NHL."

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon repeatedly has said Ekblad will be given every opportunity to earn a roster spot in training camp, and McCabe echoed those sentiments.

Ekblad, who will participate in Canada World Juniors training camp in August, isn't taking anything for granted.

"Obviously I don't expect a spot on this team. I have to earn it," he said of the Panthers. "And this is just the first stepping stone to that goal. I don't think until my first game I'll feel that I'm finally here."

At the very least, Ekblad made a very good first impression on his new employers.

"What we expected is what we got," Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland said. "Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.

"[Now it's just] making sure that he's not going to be surprised by anything when he shows up here in September. He's heading home. He's got a great program for the summer. What we saw right now and him just finishing up a month ago, we feel pretty good about it."

Tallon's message to Ekblad for the next few weeks was simple.

"Just keep getting better," Tallon said. "This is an indoctrination camp. He's probably learned a lot about fitness and nutrition and the pace of play and how to get better. This kid is totally committed. He'll go back and do whatever it takes to come back here and earn a spot on our team."

UPCOMING EVENTS

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 PIT 31 21 6 4 99 71 46
2 TBL 33 20 10 3 110 87 43
3 NYI 31 21 10 0 99 89 42
4 DET 32 17 7 8 92 80 42
5 MTL 33 20 11 2 88 82 42
6 TOR 32 19 10 3 110 91 41
7 FLA 30 14 8 8 68 76 36
8 WSH 31 15 10 6 91 85 36
9 BOS 32 16 13 3 81 83 35
10 NYR 29 15 10 4 89 79 34
11 OTT 31 13 12 6 82 86 32
12 CBJ 31 13 15 3 76 100 29
13 PHI 31 11 14 6 81 92 28
14 BUF 32 13 17 2 62 100 28
15 NJD 33 11 16 6 74 96 28
16 CAR 31 9 19 3 66 88 21

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 30 12 7 2 19
A. Ekblad 30 5 13 5 18
J. Jokinen 29 3 13 -1 16
B. Boyes 29 5 9 0 14
J. Hayes 23 7 6 2 13
J. Huberdeau 27 3 9 2 12
V. Trocheck 19 2 9 4 11
S. Bergenheim 20 5 4 2 9
S. Upshall 19 4 5 1 9
T. Fleischmann 28 3 5 7 8
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 12 6 6 .926 2.24
A. Montoya 2 2 2 .915 2.27
 
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