Former Nashville Predators blue-liner Mattias Ekholm has been one of the NHL’s better defensemen over the last few seasons, and the staff at The Athletic seemingly agree.
The outlet released its annual list of the top 125 skaters in the NHL, which was put together with help from several NHL executives and GMs, and Ekholm landed in the All-Star tier along with other D-men including Devon Toews, Dougie Hamilton, Quinn Hughes, Drew Doughty and Mackenzie Weegar.
However, when The Athletic polled a few anonymous players to get their thoughts on the tiers, not everyone agreed with the 33-year-old’s placement on the list.
“Ekholm before (Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson)?” an anonymous player questioned. “F–k Ekholm.”
“He’s in All-Star tier?” another unnamed player asked. “Oh my god … Can I get out of here? He’s not good. He’s not that good. He shouldn’t even be on this list in any tier. He’s good defensively. But come on, All-Star tier?”
Ekholm was, indeed, ranked above Andersson and a few other premier defenders like Brent Burns, Vince Dunn, Zach Werenski, Kris Letang, Seth Jones, Aaron Ekblad and Darnell Nurse.
And while trying to find the dividing line between the top 30 to 40 defensemen across the league can be an arduous task, there’s little argument that Ekholm belongs among them.
During his 12-year run with the Predators, Ekholm had more hits (583), takeaways (296) and
short-handed ice time (1658:44) than any other defenseman on the team. He also totaled the second-most blocked shots (913), posted the second-best plus/minus rating (+104), and averaged the fourth-most minutes per game (21:50) in franchise history, all while playing in the shadows of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis.
Since becoming a full-time NHLer in 2013, Ekholm ranks sixth among defensemen in plus/minus rating (+134), ninth in on-ice even-strength goal differential (+116), 12th in short-handed ice time (1,704:31), 20th in even-strength points (225), 21st in takeaways (309), and he’s tied for 32nd in short-handed ice time per game (2:19).
Regardless of how big a Rasmus Andersson fan you are, Ekholm’s resume speaks for itself.
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