Geek of the Week: Aaron Ekblad’s Weak Start to Your Benefit

by Scott Maran on November 11, 2018


As a first overall pick and Calder Trophy winner after just his first NHL season, Aaron Ekblad looked poised to become one of the top defensemen in the league for years to come. However, that never came to fruition as Ekblad’s growth has stagnated over the last few seasons. He has never posted top offensive totals (with only a career high 39 points), and this isn’t likely to change with Keith Yandle flourishing.

However, despite a relatively low ceiling, Ekblad has consistently been a valuable depth player in the fantasy hockey world. Before this season his 134 points in 309 games were the 35th most by any defenseman over the past four years. Combined with his solid peripherals, Ekblad has always been one to provide underrated value. At the beginning of the season DobberHockey projected him to finish 78th overall out of all skaters (in an average 12-team Yahoo league measuring goals, assists, shots on goal, power-play points, and hits).
 

 

Rank

FHG Value

GP

G

A

SOG

PPP

Hits

Colin Miller

77

18

81

11

26

141

15

147

Aaron Ekblad

78

18

77

15

28

201

13

82

Evgeny Kuznetsov

79

17

80

25

50

181

26

52


While a 43-point projection is a little high, the point is that Ekblad’s contributions across every category makes him valuable in multicategory fantasy formats.

The problem this year though is that Ekblad has gotten off to a horrendous start offensively. With only two points on the season, Ekblad is tied for the second-least amount of points out of all defenders who have averaged at least 20 minutes of ice time per game (tied with skaters such as Danny DeKeyser and Nikita Zaitsev). Because of this, he’s only provided the 226th most fantasy value out of all skaters.
 

 

Rank

FHG Value

GP

G

A

SOG

PPP

Hits

Ryan Murray

225

-4

16

1

7

19

1

6

Aaron Ekblad

226

-4

12

0

2

28

1

17

Duncan Keith

227

-4

15

0

6

24

1

8


His 28 shots and 17 hits are good but not great enough to outweigh his drastically below-average totals. In a league that’s seen scoring increase dramatically this season, two points isn’t going to cut it when 21 are already at double digits.

Ekblad’s scoring drought is unlikely to continue though (at least in the long-term). The goals will eventually start coming, as it’s impossible for him to finish with a shooting percentage of zero. Especially when considering Ekblad’s been the 11th highest goal-scoring defenseman over the last five years, it’s only a matter of time before the pucks start going in. There’s also no reason to believe the points in general won’t start coming, as Ekblad is receiving the same heavy usage that he’s always seen. As Florida’s undisputed number two defensemen, even when rough patches occur we can expect Ekblad to be given the opportunity to break out of them without seeing his role diminished. There were only 11 defenders last year that finished the season with less than 30 points while getting power-play time and averaging over 20 minutes of time per game, and they were the kinds of players you’d expect to have trouble scoring (think Ron Hainsey and Cody Ceci). It’s safe to say that Ekblad is a little more skilled than them and he’ll be kept in a situation ensuring some offensive production.

But why you should start looking at adding Ekblad now is because of his steady peripheral production. His contributions alone in power-play points, shots, and hits aren’t very impressive but together they form a valuable package. He’s even registering more hits than usual through his first 12 games of the season.

Ekblad can be a top 100 skater when at his usual level of play, and now his perceived value his extremely low. In most formats you could probably add him from free agency once he starts getting hot, but in deep leagues he could be a good defenseman to target in a trade. Moves like these that don’t involve star names but still add value are important in deeper formats where every marginal improvement adds up. Squeezing all the value you can out of each roster spot is important and a low-cost bet on Ekblad could be one of the safest bets to make at getting more in value than you give up.