Panthers select Ekblad with top pick in NHL draft

AFP
Aaron Ekblad is selected first overall by the Florida Panthers in the first round of the NHL Draft, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 27, 2014
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Aaron Ekblad is selected first overall by the Florida Panthers in the first round of the NHL Draft, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Bruce Bennett)

Philadelphia (AFP) - The Florida Panthers selected Canadian defenceman Aaron Ekblad with the top pick in the 2014 National Hockey League entry draft.

The 1.93 metre (6-foot-4) Ekblad is expected to bolster the Panthers' blueline with his dynamic skills and steady presence.

In 58 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Ekblad finished with 23 goals and 53 assists. He also tallied two goals and six points in nine playoff games.

"I wanted to get drafted by Florida because they are an up and coming team where I can facilitate my development and help them win a Stanley Cup," Ekblad said on Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres selected centre Sam Reinhart second overall while German forward Leon Draisaitl was taken third by the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center arena.

The Calgary Flames snagged centre Sam Bennett fourth and the New York Islanders chose left winger Michael Dal Colle to round out the top five picks.

The entry draft, held this year at the home of the Philadelphia Flyers, is the annual selection of the top junior players which allows NHL teams to replenish their talent pools.

Four of the top five players drafted Friday were from Canada.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he hopes Ekblad can become a shut down defenceman who goes up against the top lines on the other teams.

"His character is impeccable," said Tallon. "He is so mature for his age. He is a guy you can build a solid team around.

"We have to take our time, take baby steps, we want to continue building our team the way we are building."

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