Team North America—and Florida Panthers—defenseman Aaron Ekblad will not play in tonight’s World Cup game against Team Russia because of an upper body injury. Ekblad led all players in ice time with over 23 minutes played in the team’s 4-1 win over Finland on Sunday. George Richards of the Miami Herald reports Ekblad has suffered a mild concussion.
The young defenseman will be replaced by unsigned RFA Jacob Trouba. Trouba has yet to come to terms with the Winnipeg Jets, and a strong performance replacing Ekblad could go a long way in his contract negotiations. Trouba had a bit of a production setback last season, scoring 6G and 15A in 81 games, but he remains a top-flight defensive prospect for the Jets.
Ekblad just signed a eight-year extension worth $7.5MM a year, so the Panthers have the right to be concerned about his health. Panthers GM Tom Rowe told Richards that he doesn’t expect the defenseman to play again in the tournament. Ekblad scored 15g and 21A in 78 games last season and is looking to build off that success as he progresses in his development. This injury highlights why NHL GMs worry about international competitions as they impose risk upon the league’s top players outside of scheduled NHL games.