Top prospects at Hlinka tournament
The Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament wrapped up with Canada winning its sixth straight gold medal at the tournament. But perhaps more important, the event provided the hockey season's first look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects for 2014.
Here are some notes on some of the big names who played well at the event based on my conversations with scouts in attendance and watching video of a couple of games.
Note that this is a focus on 2014 NHL draft prospects, so players like Yevgeni Svechnikov, Mikko Rantanen, Pavel Zacha, Rasmus Andersson and Gustaf Franzen are not profiled.
Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)
Ekblad was the second OHL player to be given "exceptional" status -- allowing him early entry into the league -- in between John Tavares and Connor McDavid. While he doesn't have the same level of game-breaking talent as those two, he is still a very good prospect who could be a top-five or even top-three pick at next year's draft. At the Hlinka tournament, Ekblad was the top defenseman for Canada, logged a ton of minutes and was the top-scoring defender on any team. His best tools are arguably on defense, as he's a big body (6-foot-4, 200 pounds), skates at a high-end level, is very physical and makes a lot of stops.
One scout noted he made a few defensive errors during the event, but generally he was very good. Ekblad was also the top power-play guy for Canada, flashing some solid creativity and puck movement.
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