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Panthers reportedly eyeing Ekblad, who loves sunshine

Jun 9, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

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NEW YORK — The Florida Panthers might trade the first overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. But if they don’t, the Sun Sentinel, citing a team source, reports that they’re leaning towards selecting big defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

Now, for the record, everything that comes from a team source ahead of the draft should be taken with a grain of salt. If the Panthers say they’re leaning towards Ekblad, maybe they are. Then again, maybe they’re just throwing his name out there, in case another team covets Ekblad.

But if they do take Ekblad, it doesn’t sound like he’ll have any trouble moving to Florida.

“I love sunshine,” the 18-year-old told reporters today in a New York hotel.

Of course, “I don’t mind snow either.”

Wherever he ends up, Ekblad would love to be the first overall pick.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It’s a lifelong dream.”

Nathan MacKinnon was last year’s first overall pick, by the Colorado Avalanche. Others current NHL stars that were top picks include John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, and Joe Thornton.

Oddly enough, Ekblad’s favorite player, and the one he patterns his game after, wasn’t drafted until the third round. Or come to think of it, maybe it’s not that odd, since Nicklas Lidstrom is as good a role model as any for a young defenseman.

“He was a pretty special player,” said Ekblad. “Everyone says he’s a great person off the ice, too, and I think that’s pretty important.”

What does it take to be an elite number-one defenseman like Lidstrom was for the Detroit Red Wings?

“Attention to details,” said Ekblad. “Knowing when to be simple, when to jump into the rush and provide offense. Playing good defense first. Being good on the power play and penalty kill. It takes being an all-around, full-package player. A two-way defenseman.”

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Ekblad explains why the Panthers are the best place for his development

  1. 19inarow - Jun 9, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Well then I suppose he’s not interested in playing a physical game.

    Seems every year there’s a mancrush on one draft year defenseman, with the “he’ll go first overall!” label, only to see them fall to 3rd (Gudbranson) or 4th (Larrson, Jones). Doughty and Hedman went 2nd overall (Stamkos, Tavares, respectively), with Doughty obviously a star and Hedman finally showing his stuff, five years on. Happens every year…and it’ll happen next year, too.

    The last defenseman to go first, overall, was Eric Johnson. No one would want him over Toews, right?

    Careful with that pick, Florida.

  2. canucks30 - Jun 9, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    This is the 5th time the Panthers have has the #1 overall pick.

    They traded it the last 3 times they had it:

    1998) Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay via San Jose)
    2002) Rick Nash (Columbus)
    2003) Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh)

    The Panthers ended up with Viktor Kozlov, Jay Bouwmeester, and Nathan Horton instead.

    In hindsight, they would have been better off just picking in the #1 slot.

    The last (and only) time Florida actually used the #1 overall pick was on Ed Jovanovski back in 1994.

    Maybe it’s time the Panthers actually kept #1 and drafted a franchise defenseman like they did 20 years ago.

  3. greatmiamisportsmind - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Considering the draft isn’t all that deep, I’m hoping my team trades down… twice, like what is being speculated. If they can trade down and still get a player they covet while adding pieces that could help them out this year, I’m all for it.

    Let’s be honest, it’s not like there are aren’t many holes to fill. Every position needs something, including goaltending because Dan Ellis just isn’t good.

    • esracerx46 - Jun 9, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      Your comment seems counterintuitive. If its not a deep draft, why trade down? Florida won’t contend this year, so they don’t have a need for someone to help them compete this year. Also, you’re not finding a backup goaltender for this year in this years draft.

      I have a proposal, let’s say you do in fact want to swap picks. Would you trade the 1st pick for Brent Seabrook, Chicago’s 1st this year, and another pick or a low tier roster player/mid level prospect.

      Here’s my rationale. Defenseman take longer to develop, and prospects in general are a crap shoot. Seabrook is a known commodity. Lots of tread on the tires yet, and also a right handed shot. Hawks get younger and cheaper, Florida gets a known do it all rock of a defenseman.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jun 12, 2014 at 12:01 AM

        Why trade down? If it isn’t as deep of a draft as most years, and IF there clearly isn’t a big drop off from 1 to pick your number, then the Panthers have nothing to lose by trading down while still acquiring talent that could help this year.

        No, the Panthers are not Cup contenders this year, but they could compete for a playoff spot. They will presumably have a better head coach than the crap (Dineen and Horachek) last year. Hoping it’s Bylsma, but we’ll see. They have a young but good core and a Brink’s truck worth of cap space they can use to sign free agents, assuming that the new ownership will actually spend money, as they claim they will.

  4. rsl22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    He looks like a young Ivan Drago. I wish the Caps could trade for him. If Panthers do take him, they would have a great top pair in Gudbranson and Ekblad.

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