Panthers snare Ekblad with first-overall pick
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers picked defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft on Friday at Wells Fargo Center.
Ekblad, a dynamic presence on the blueline for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, posted 23 goals and 53 points in 58 regular-season games in 2013-14. He added two goals and four assists over nine playoff contests.
"It's unbelievable. It's cool to have my family and friends here supporting me," said Ekblad following his selection by the Panthers. "I believe they're an up-and-coming team and I feel that this is where I can facilitate my development and win a Stanley Cup in the next few years."
Florida, which won the draft lottery, retained its top-overall slot for the first time in 20 years, when defenseman Ed Jovanovski was taken at No. 1.
Buffalo used the second pick to take Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart. The 18- year-old native of Vancouver finished his fourth season for the Western Hockey League club with team highs of 69 assists and 105 points to go with 36 goals in only 60 games.
Reinhart also led his club with 17 assists and 23 points over 13 postseason contests. The son of former Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Paul Reinhart, Sam was selected higher than either Paul (12th overall, 1979) or brothers Max (63rd overall, 2010) and Griffin (4th overall, 2012).
Leon Draisaitl now owns a piece of history: the highest German-born player ever picked by an NHL team, having gone third to the Edmonton Oilers. The 18- year-old left-handed shooting center finished a stellar second season for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL, leading his team with 38 goals, 67 assists and 105 points in 64 appearances. At 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds, Draisaitl will be counted on to provide an immediate physical presence.
"We all know how difficult centers are to obtain, so you have to draft big centers. Leon fits that bill for us. We compete in a difficult conference and difficult division and we're hoping Leon will answer the call against the opposition," noted Oilers GM Craig MacTavish.
Calgary used the fourth spot to draft 18-year-old winger Sam Bennett of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. Bennett, a native of Toronto, struck for 91 points (36G, 55A) in 57 games during his second season in juniors. He was listed as the top North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
With the fifth overall pick, the New York Islanders took center Michael Dal Colle. A left-handed shooting winger, the 18-year-old led the Oshawa Generals with 95 points on 39 goals and 56 assists in 67 games.
06/27 19:51:48 ET