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Panthers keep first overall pick, select d-man Ekblad

Jun 27, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT

Barrie Colts v Ottawa 67's Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — The Florida Panthers are hoping they’ve found their franchise defenseman. The club used its first overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft on Aaron Ekblad, the big blueliner from the OHL’s Barrie Colts.

Ekblad, 18, becomes the first defenseman since Erik Johnson (2006) to be taken first overall. One of his new Florida teammates, Ed Jovanovski, was also taken with the first pick, in 1994. The most successful defenseman ever taken first overall was Denis Potvin (1973, Islanders).

It’s possible Ekblad slots right into the Panthers’ lineup next season. There are scouts who think he’s NHL-ready, and Florida may also lose Tom Gilbert to free agency.

Ekblad said earlier this month that he tries to model his game after Nicklas Lidstrom.

“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.”

There was talk the Panthers could trade the first overall pick, but ultimately general manager Dale Tallon walked up to the stage at Wells Fargo Center and announced Ekblad’s name.

Related: Get to know a draft pick — Aaron Ekblad

  1. lowenni - Jun 27, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    He’s gonna be real good. I think his potential is a bit overblown because he’s the only top defensive prospect in this draft–he pretty much blows the competition away in a weak defensive draft. That being said, he’s got all the tools and the drive to be very successful. I just see Erik Johnson in him, but Johnson is a real good defenseman. Just not Norris good.

  2. tru2joelu4eva - Jun 27, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    sam bennett be all like OH THANK GOD I CAN FINALLY FINISH THIS PULL UP

  3. leepetertk - Jun 28, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    FLA left a lot on the table to draft this player. VAN’s offer (6th, 24th, Shinkaruk) was a pretty good offer. It would have made the draft a lot more interesting if they decided to trade the pick. VAN would have taken Reinhart. Then BUF would trade down and maybe TOR would get Ekblad. Instead the logical script stayed the course.

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