NHL Draft 2014: Florida Panthers select Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick

Bruce Bennett

The journey begins for one of the most exciting prospects in all of hockey, as the Florida Panthers selected defensive prospect Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

The journey begins for one of the most exciting prospects in all of hockey, as the Florida Panthers selected defensive prospect Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Ekblad, 18, was just the second player to ever be granted exceptional status by the Ontario Hockey League following in the footsteps of New York Islanders captain, John Tavares. Exceptional status allowed Ekblad to enter the Canadian Hockey League one year earlier than his eligible draft year, a decision that was reached following a six week review and unanimous vote by Hockey Canada. He was ultimately taken with the No. 1 overall selection by the Barrie Colts.

In 175 career games, the right-handed shooting defenseman has amassed 116 points and bolstered that total with career high numbers in all three primary offensive categories last season (23 goals, 30 assists and 53 points). In addition to offensive input, Ekblad adds size and strength to the backend. Listed at 6'4, 216 lbs, the young man has the potential to be a physical force once he is introduced to professional strength and nutrition programs.

The term exceptional is often used in association with Ekblad, as the promise of his future is bright, via the ISS:

Ekblad may not have the dynamic flair of some former first overall picks but he is close to a sure thing as you will find in this year's draft. A physically and mentally mature individual who possesses great poise to his game. Ekblad has consistently proven he not only belongs but excels when faced against older players. He has the ability to jump into a NHL lineup as early as this fall. He is a consistent performer who has fared well this season despite the heavy scrutiny and microscope of being near the top of the rankings since the season started. ISS #1 defenseman has the hands, feet, head, and intangibles that make him a potential corner piece on the back end for his NHL club.

Ekblad has represented Canada on multiple occasions, acting as the U17 captain during the World Championship in 2012-13 and captaining the U18 team during the 2013-14 Hlinka Memorial tournament. He finished the year as the top-ranked defensive prospect, according to the ISS rankings.

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