Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad
With the first overall pick in this years draft, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon decided to hang onto his selection and take the best player available in Ekblad.
At 6′ 3″, Ekblad led all Ontario Hockey League (OHL) blueliners with 23 goals last season. That led to him being named the league’s best defender last season.
He also was picked first for the second time in the past three years after being granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2011-12′ season. Because of that, his maturity level is far and away better than most other prospects in this draft class.
Ekblad’s got a nice combination of size, speed and smarts. He knows when to join the rush and when not to, and can make things happen if the opportunity presents itself.
In South Florida, Ekblad will team up with other top draft selections Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau among others to build a team capable of making the playoffs instead of missing them. Ranking: 3 stars