I wrote yesterday on how trading the first overall pick was the best thing for the Florida Panthers, both for their immediate success and their future, and I still believe it. It has nothing to do with Aaron Ekblad, or even Leon Draisaitl or either Sam – it was more an indication on the organization themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, adding multiple pieces to this organization would have helped more in the ‘win now’ strategy, as well as the ‘long term’ approach but there is no denying – the Panthers hit it out of the ball park with this pick.
It wasn’t hard, as for the entire year Ekblad was a legitimate contender to go first overall no matter who was picking there. Watch any team in the playoffs this past season, any team that made it deep had a defenseman who was able to make a significant impact in both ends of the ice.
What was the key selling point for me jumping ships so quickly? The fact he wanted to come here. He wanted to be a part of what Dale Tallon and company has going on.
Any talented player knows that when they enter the draft they are likely to get drafted by a bad team, not only did he realize he might be going to a bad team – he relished it, he wanted it, he hoped for it. And he has high hopes for his new team, and recognizes the talent he joins,
"I believe that they are an up and coming team. They have one of the best defensive cores in the upcoming years in the NHL," — Ekblad
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) June 27, 2014
Three, maybe four players may have been better off for the Panthers, but never underestimate the impact that one player could bring that wants to be here.
The Kings showed that size wins championships, that the ability to be physical can be the determining factor in winning a championship. Florida now have three star in the making ‘core’ players all standing at least 6’3”.
And imagine if Erik Gudbranson continues to take strides, you have a potentially dominant 1-2 punch that will tower over their opposition.
Call me naïve for believing in the impact a rookie defenseman can make, but one look at Ekblad and you can see he isn’t quite in the same mold as the ones before him.
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