When you think about your favourite NHL team, who would be the cornerstone your franchise is built around? Every long term successful NHL franchise has had one or two key players which laid the foundation of their successes. Think 50's Montreal and you have the Rocket. Think 80's Oilers and you have Gretzky. Think 90's Red Wings and you have Yzerman and this list goes on and on. Most times when you think of these teams, the player that stands out the most is the offensive superstar and usually is a forward. With the exception of Bobby Orr, when was the last time you got super excited about a defenseman? Erik Karlsson and PK Subban have brought a little appeal to the position over the past couple years but when you consider them one of the best in the game and compare that to a Crosby or a Price they pale in comparison in all facets. It just seems that NHL defensemen aren't that "sexy".
Since 1980 only 7 defensemen (technically 8 have but I am not counting Wendel Clark as he jumped to LW during his first season) have been drafted first overall in the NHL entry draft. Here is a list of those 7 and please brace yourself:
1982 Gord Kluzak 123 points in 299 games. Zero NHL awards or honours.
1992 Roman Hamrlik 638 points in 1395 games. Olympic gold medalist and 3 time all-star.
1994 Ed Jovanovski 500 points in 1128 games. 3 time gold medalist and 5-time all star etc.
1995 Bryan Berard 323 points in 619 games. Calder trophy, All-Rookie Team and Masterton Trophy.
1996 Chris Phillips 288 points in 1179 games. Several international medals.
2006 Erik Johnson 231 points in 552 games. Currently injured but has won several international medals and did play in 1 All-Star game.
Are you underwhelmed yet? Truth is, many of the best NHL defenseman in the last 25 years haven't been first overall picks. While nothing is a sure thing, I am willing to bet that none of those above 6 will be in the HOF any time soon and unfortunately despite some pretty excellent NHL careers, most would be considered "busts" so one degree or another based on the expectations of a first overall pick! Since 1982, 4 Hall of Famers have been chosen first overall and an additional 4 could be safe bets to get a call.
Now comes the 7th defenseman who was a first overall pick since 1982. Aaron Ekblad.
Aaron Ekblad is one of those players who I believe has the potential to be a cornerstone player that a successful franchise could be built from. Much like the 80's Bruins had Bourque, the 90's Devils had Scott Stevens or the 90's Rangers had Brian Leetch. I am not going to call Aaron Ekblad the next Bobby Orr because there is no next Bobby Orr. But I believe that Aaron Ekblad has already shown the potential to change a game and there is really nothing this kid can't do. He is already as successful as many other former number 1 picks and he is only 20 years old. His performance at the 2015 World Championships showed that he is truly a rare talent and a big reason for the Panthers turnaround is Aaron Ekblad. While defenseman aren't that "sexy" to necessarily watch and collect, I believe Ekblad could be an exception to this rule.
14-15 UD Premier Premier Rookies Aaron Ekblad Patch Auto Rookie /199
What are your thoughts, would you draft your team back to front? Front to back or go with a solid defense core? Don't get me wrong, I would definitely draft a Crosby, or McDavid over any defenseman in the NHL. But after these two, would you take a player like Tyler Seguin over Aaron Ekblad or Erik Karlsson? Thanks for stopping by!