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Aaron Ekblad named OHL rookie of the year

Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad warms up before playing against the Oshawa Generals in regular season OHL hockey action in Oshawa, Ont., on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012.

NATHAN DENETTE/The Canadian Press

Aaron Ekblad was named the Ontario Hockey League's rookie of the year Thursday.

The Barrie Colts defenceman was the youngest player in the league this season after being granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to enter last year's draft at the age of 15.

Taken first overall by the Colts, the Belle River, Ont., native recorded 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 63 games.

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Now 16, Ekblad scored seven power-play goals as part of a turnaround season for the Colts, who finished third in the Eastern Conference after winding up 2010-11 campaign with the worst record in the OHL.

"Going through the exceptional player process last season was stressful but playing this year I have no regrets," Ekblad said. "We have a great (coaching) staff (in Barrie) and just a great team that helped me out along the way and we had a successful year."

Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers finished second in rookie voting, followed by Max Domi of the London Knights.

The six-foot-three, 207-pound Ekblad had a goal and three assists in Barrie's 4-2 defeat of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The Colts take on the Ottawa 67's in the second round, with that series starting Friday.

Ekblad is 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 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. John Tavares was the OHL's top rookie with the Oshawa Generals in 2006.

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Connor McDavid of the AAA minor midget Toronto Marlboros has been granted exceptional player status to enter Saturday's OHL draft as a 15 year old.

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