The Florida Panthers currently hold the #1 overall selection in this years NHL Entry Draft and while this draft isn’t as deep or star studded as past years, there are still some players the Cats could definitely use. Lets take a look at each of the top 5 prospects individually in this years draft according to the scouting service ISS Hockey and see what they could possibly bring to the Panthers. Lets take a look at the second ranked player in this years draft.
Coming in at #2 is the 6’4”, 214 pound defenceman, Aaron Ekblad. It seems as if Ekblad is destined for greatness. Ekblad was granted “exceptional player” status at the age of 15 meaning he could enter the CHL draft a year before his eligibility age. He became the first defenceman ever to be granted this status and he joined the likes of John Tavares, Connor McDavid, and Sean Day as the only players to be deemed “exceptional”. Ekblad was selected first overall by the Barrie Colts in 2011 and won rookie of the year in the OHL as he posted 10 goals and dished out 19 assists. During the 2012-2013 season Ekblad posted 7 goals and 27 assists. In the 2013-2014 season Ekblad proved he was an elite defensive prospect as he netted 23 goals and added 30 helpers which led to him being named to the OHL First All-Star Team along with being awarded with the Max Kaminsky Trophy which is given to the leagues top defenceman. So, what could we expect from Aaron if the Cats so choose to select him #1 overall? According to eliteprospects.com he is, “An exceptional talent, Ekblad has an impressive blend of size and strength for his age. He’s mature, confident and poised in all three zones, skates well and is strong in transition.”
- Why he would fit: If you look at the current defensive depth chart, assuming we resign RFA’s Erik Gudbranson, and Dmitry Kulikov and let Tom Gilbert test free agency, you will probably notice that our D needs extreme improvement. The team ranked second to last in goals against per game and ranked last in the league when on the penalty kill. Inserting the big defenceman into the lineup would help improve those numbers. Additionally, if you look at the remaining four teams in the playoffs you might realize they all have at least one star D-man. The Rangers have Ryan McDonagh, the Canadians have P.K. Subban, the Kings have Drew Doughty, and the Blackhawks have both Brent Seabrook and the smooth skating Duncan Keith. Elite defenceman in this league are few and far between and the chance of being able to draft a stud on the blueline is too much for me to pass on, making Ekblad my choice for the Panthers at #1 overall.
Panthers Defensive Depth Chart
Brian Campbell Dmitry Kulikov Aaron Ekblad Willie Mitchell Dylan Olsen Erik Gudbranson Shane O'Brien/Colby Robak
- Why he wouldn’t fit: The only reason I could come up with is that the Panthers are in ‘win now mode’. Typically defenceman take around 300 games to fully adapt and live up to their potential in the NHL. Is GM Dale Tallon ready to wait a few years for Ekblad to develop? Are us fans willing to wait?
What do you think about Ekblad? Should the Panthers take him at #1? Let us know in the comments section as your input is very much appreciated. Follow @FANSIDEDTHERAT and check back here for all your Florida Panthers news.