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

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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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 72 13 34 8 47
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 74 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 70 13 26 -3 39
B. Boyes 73 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 74 11 24 11 35
J. Hayes 65 18 13 -5 31
A. Barkov 64 14 17 -2 31
B. Campbell 75 3 21 2 24
B. Pirri 42 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 12 .921 2.33
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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