The Florida Panthers will be represented by two players in the NHL All-Star Game after Aaron Ekblad was added to the roster on Friday.
The rookie is an injury replacement and his presence in Columbus may have helped him. Ekblad was already set to be part of the Skills Competition on Saturday and now will have a full weekend of activity.
Roberto Luongo will be Florida's other All-Star on Sunday. The goalie has enjoyed a great year despite some struggles heading into the break.
In his first professional season, Ekblad has amassed six goals and 19 assists. The 25 points by the Ekblad are good enough to lead all of Florida's defensemen. The tally also is better than any other rookie defenseman in the league.
The Calder Memorial Trophy which is presented to the top rookie at the end of the year could be the next honor bestowed upon Ekblad. In addition to the aforementioned points, Ekblad is fourth among all rookies in scoring.
Most of the damage done by Ekblad came in November and December. In those two months, the first overall pick had 18 of his 25 points. In addition, five of his six goals came in that time period.
Ekblad has a big reason for Florida's surprise success this year. Going into the All-Star break, the Panthers remained in contention. This run comes only a season removed from being one of the worst teams in the league record-wise.
The NHL All-Star Game will take place on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.