Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that defenceman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts is the 2011-12 recipient of the Emms Family Award presented annually to the OHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Ekblad, a 16-year-old from Belle River, ON, recorded 29 points in 63 games as the OHL’s youngest player after receiving “Exceptional Player” status one year ago to enter the Priority Selection as a 15-year-old. Ekblad became the first overall pick of the Colts last May and led the team’s defence corps with 10 goals including seven on the power play as part of a turnaround season for the Colts who finished third in the Eastern Conference. He also represented Team Ontario as an Assistant Captain at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge earning a bronze medal.
“Going through the exceptional player process last season was stressful but playing this year I have no regrets,” Ekblad said. “Playing for Dale Hawerchuk, Jay Wells, and Todd Miller, we have a great staff here and just a great team that helped me out along the way and we had a successful year.”
Ekblad becomes just the fourth defenceman to win the award since it was first presented in 1973 following Bruce Cassidy of the Ottawa 67’s in 1983, Rick Corriveau of the London Knights in 1988, and most recently Bryan Berard of the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1995. He also becomes the third member of the Colts organization to receive the honour following Sheldon Keefe in 1999, and Bryan Little in 2004. Ekblad is also the second player to win the award after being granted “Exceptional Player” status following John Tavares who won the award with the Oshawa Generals in 2006.
The Emms Family Award is presented annually to the OHL’s top rookie and is selected by all 20 member club General Managers. Teams were asked to submit only one nominee from their own club for consideration on the ballot and were not permitted to vote for the player from their own hockey club. Players received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.
Ekblad finished the voting process with 70 points out of a maximum 95. Runner-up for the award was top scoring rookie Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers who received 55 voting points, followed by Max Domi of the London Knights who finished third with 26 voting points.
The Emms Family Award was donated by Leighton “Hap” Emms, former owner of the Barrie, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines OHL franchises. The award has been presented to players such as Wayne Gretzky (Sault Ste. Marie, 1977-78), Joe Thornton (Sault Ste. Marie, 1995-96), Rick Nash (London, 2000-01), Patrick Kane (London 2006-07), and Taylor Hall (Windsor 2007-08). Last season Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting was the unanimous winner after a rookie season where he scored 49 goals and 52 assists for 101 points in 65 games.
Ekblad is joined on the first All-Rookie team by defenceman Olli Maatta of the London Knights and goaltender Daniel Altshuller of the Oshawa Generals, with Faksa centering the forwards that include Nick Ritchie of the Peterborough Petes at left wing and Connor Brown of the Erie Otters at right wing.
The OHL All-Rookie Teams were also selected by the OHL’s General Managers. Players were voted on by position and received five points for a first place vote, three for a second place vote, and one for a third.
2011-12 OHL All-Rookie Teams (voting points in brackets):
Centre – Radek Faksa, Kitchener Rangers (79)
Left Wing – Nick Ritchie, Peterborough Petes (46)
Right Wing – Connor Brown, Erie Otters (60)
Defence – Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts (84)
Defence – Olli Maatta, London Knights (73)
Goaltender – Daniel Altshuller, Oshawa Generals (78)
Centre – Max Domi, London Knights (39)
Left Wing – Jason Dickinson, Guelph Storm (40)
Right Wing – Stephen Nosad, Peterborough Petes (47)
Defence – Trevor Carrick, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (39)
Defence – Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (35)
Goaltender – Spencer Martin, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (54)