As a general manager, what you do with the first overall pick might be one of the most important things you do as a decision maker. It can make or break your tenure with a team, fail and you will be without a job. Make the right choice and you can set your team up for the next 10+ years.
For the Florida Panthers, they have now ‘won’ the first overall pick for the fourth time in the 20-year history of the franchise. They selected Ed Jovanovski in 1994 and traded their pick in 2002 and 2003.
When beginning the selection process, you can generally take one of two approaches – selecting by positional need or by selecting the best player available.
More and more we have seen 18-year old players jump straight into the NHL, but generally most players take a few years until they are ready to contribute at the NHL level so drafting by ‘need’ isn’t always the best solution.
Would you really pass up a franchise center because you need a winger, or defenseman? Some would say so if you are already set up at center, but if the Pittsburgh Penguins showed anything in the Jordan Staal trade, once you collect enough players down the middle (in their case), they can move one and bring in a big haul in return.
Most consensuses believe that the Panthers should lock in on Barrie Colt’s defenseman Aaron Ekblad with their pick. Ekblad is the top defenseman available and should be able to contribute in the NHL immediately, filling a big hole on the blueline for Florida.
But track records for selecting defensemen first overall in the draft isn’t the greatest. Chris Phillips, Roman Hamrlik, Panthers own Ed Jovanovski and Erik Johnson are a few that have gone first overall – with Johnson the most recent.
Johnson had been looked at as being a bust, but a breakout season this year has begun to drop the label.
Florida isn’t really in position to be select need as they still have some ways to go before they become contenders. Drafting by need isn’t the way to go, and if they do decide to keep the pick and Ekblad is their guy it should be because they believe he is the best player available – for now and the future of the team.
What do you think? Should a team in the Panthers situation draft the player they feel is a ‘need’ or should they continue to add as much young talent as possible and take the best player available?