Mattias Ekholm’s recent play is bringing back good memories of when Chris Pronger patrolled the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line. He’s also helping fans such as myself move on from July 3, 2006, when Pronger was traded to the Anaheim Ducks after leading the Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. That trade was unexpected. It also stung for a long time. The Oilers may have finally found a replacement for him when they traded for Ekholm just before this season’s trade deadline on Feb. 28.
Ekholm is everything Oilers’ fans could’ve hoped for when they shipped Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, and draft picks to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the talented defenceman. NHL insiders may have known just how good Ekholm was during his time in Nashville, but now Oilers fans get to see firsthand just how talented the 32-year-old is.
In his first eight games with the Oilers, Ekholm is already a plus-13 in the plus/minus column. He’s helped steady Evan Bouchard’s game, take pressure off the entire defensive core by playing tough minutes, and display a calm steadiness in high-pressure situations.
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Many are already calling Ekholm and Bouchard the number-one defensive pair on the Oilers. This could very well be true. Steve Konroyd of the NHL Network gives an excellent take on Ekholm and the positive impact he’s had on Bouchard and Darnell Nurse.
Is Ekholm Really As Good As Pronger?
That’s a tough question to answer immediately because Pronger is an NHL Hall of Fame defenceman with a Stanley Cup championship under his belt. However, Ekholm is most likely the best defenceman the Oilers have had since Pronger. He may not put up the offensive numbers that Pronger did during his time with the Oilers, but Ekholm has a similar presence and demeanor out on the ice that commands respect.
And it seems Ekholm’s influence has rubbed off on his teammates. You may not be able to see things such as leadership, calmness, and character on the stat sheet but you can feel it when you see great players on the ice. Connor McDavid and Leon Draistail have it, and Ekholm, like Pronger, has it too.
Ekholm and His…
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