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Ekblad is the One

Florida Panthers use the first overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft to select D Aaron Ekblad

Friday, 06.27.2014 / 10:13 PM ET / News
By Patrick McGrath  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Ekblad is the One

After months of speculation, the Florida Panthers took defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. The Panthers decided to keep the first overall selection after fielding trade offers from teams around the league over the past few weeks. While Panthers general manager said the team received some ‘intriguing’ offers, there was evidently nothing impressive enough to convince the team to part ways with the top pick.

Ekblad comes into the league with a sterling amateur resume and is talked about as the most NHL-ready player in the draft. The blueliner believes that he can jump into the NHL and make an impact right away.

“I am confident that I can step into the league next year,” said Ekblad. “I think that is what the Florida Panthers see in me.”

The Director of NHL’s Central Scouting, Dan Marr agrees with Ekblad’s assessment of his immediate NHL prospects.

"He is a building block for any team," Marr told USA Today. "He's smart and solid when it comes to defending, and the offensive side of his game continues to develop.”

"He is the best defenseman available and would be projected to vie for an NHL job a lot sooner than most."

Ekblad’s polish is partially a product of his joining the Ontario Hockey League a year before most of his peers. In 2011, the Windsor, ON native became the first defenseman ever to be granted ‘exceptional player’ status which allowed him join the OHL at just 15-years-old. The 6’4” blueliner enjoyed three successful seasons with the Barrie Colts, including his 2013-14 season in which he captained his team, led all OHL defensemen in goals scored with 23, and was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman.

Ekblad is also experienced at the international level as he played for Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship and captained the Canadians to a gold medal at the 2013 U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

After taking the pick, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon admitted that some teams came close with the trade offers but ultimately there were no deals strong enough to convince the team to give up the top pick.

“There were a couple of teams, beyond ten to twenty that really came close,” said Tallon. “It was an interesting evening and morning but we felt that it wasn’t quite the deal that we needed.”

Tallon also stated that Ekblad’s character and maturity for his age were huge factors in the decision.

“I think the character is impeccable. He is so mature for his age and he fits in with what we have.”

The pick at the top of the draft was the first time that the Panthers selected with the first overall pick since they selected defenseman Ed Jovanovski first at the 1994 draft. Jovanovski, an 18-year veteran, has played 1,128 games in the pros and is in his second stint with the Panthers.

Ekblad will take the ice for the first time in a Panthers uniform at the Florida Panthers July 7-11 Development Camp. He will be joined by fellow youngsters in the Panthers system including the players the Panthers select in rounds 2-7 which will take place tomorrow starting at 10:00 a.m.

 

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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