Aaron Ekblad, Hockey Canada Playing It Safe


It may be the middle of summer, but that doesn’t mean hockey takes a break. Evaluation and tryout camps for the 2015 IIHF World Juniors are underway, with Team USA participating in games in Lake Placid and Hockey Canada facing teams such as the Czech Republic and Russia. Included on that roster of Hockey Canada hopefuls is defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was selected first overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2014 NHL Draft.

The World Juniors are arguably the biggest event for any young hockey player out there. It’s a chance to represent your country at an internationally-recognized tournament against players from around the world for a chance at a gold medal. So many great players have participated in the World Juniors; it’s something to strive for and certainly an honor to participate in.

But like with any other event, there’s always the risk of an injury, and that’s exactly what happened to Ekblad on Tuesday in a game against the Czech Republic.

Ekblad left the game against the Czechs with an upper body injury after the hit. He told reporters after the game that he was okay, but will he return to World Juniors camp? According to an article on TSN, he’s out for the remainder of the camp (three games).

This is probably a smart idea and has more to do with insurance and playing it safe than an actual, serious injury. Why take the risk of a potentially bad injury – or worsening of whatever happened on Tuesday – when you can play it safe and focus on the NHL season that’s coming? According to TSN, both Hockey Canada and the Panthers want to play it safe with Ekblad and not risk anything.

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It’s unfortunate, but there’s always that risk, whether it’s a prospects game, World Juniors camp or even the NHL preseason. You never know when a check’s going to be thrown, a player falls the wrong way or some other unexpected incident occurs that causes an injury. There are even players out there who get hurt in the offseason doing things that are completely unrelated to hockey!

The fact is that both Hockey Canada and the Panthers want to play it safe with Ekblad right now and having him sit out the three games that Canada has the rest of this week probably isn’t a bad idea. Don’t risk the kid’s future in the NHL for a World Juniors camp, especially when he may not even end up playing in the WJCs at all, if Florida decides to keep him and not release him for the games when that time rolls around.