After sustaining a head and neck injury during the World Cup, Aaron Ekblad has been skating in Florida for a few days now, and has officially been cleared by doctors to return to full activity. Panthers fans everywhere can now release a huge sigh of relief as arguably their best player won’t miss the start of the season.
Ekblad, still just 20-years old, signed a huge eight year, $60MM extension this summer that will kick in after the 2016-17 season. The number one pick from 2014 has already made a huge impact at the NHL level, stepping in as an 18-year old and becoming the Panthers top defender. Now joined by all-star Keith Yandle and steady-as-she-goes Jason Demers, the Florida blueline looks impressive going into the season.
If there is any downside to the World Cup and seeing the best on best right before the season, it’s this. Ekblad could have easily suffered a concussion and put his season if not his career at risk for the tournament. When coupled with the news that Matt Murray and Marian Gaborik will both miss extensive amounts of time, owners around the league may be slightly more wary of sending their players during the next World Cup.
- For the Flames, it’s been two straight days of good news, as after Sean Monahan took the ice yesterday before practice, Mikael Backlund was back at it today according to Ryan Leslie of NHL.com. While he didn’t work with the team, he will re-join practice tomorrow wearing a non-contact jersey. The Swedish forward is working his way back from a concussion suffered during the World Cup (one of a list of injured players at the tournament) that apparently wasn’t as severe as originally thought. A return before the season opens would be huge for Backlund, who played in all 82 games last season for the first time in his career. 47 points was also a career high, something that Backlund will try and build off of this year.
- Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, is still ill and will miss Friday’s game against Arizona according to Curtis Pashelka of Mercury News. While he hasn’t been ruled out of the Sunday contest in Vancouver, the team will take it slow as he nurses himself back to health. Meier had a tremendous year in junior last season, scoring 87 points in 52 games despite being traded mid season. The Swiss forward has dominated the QMJHL since he came over, including some amazing playoff performances.