Philadelphia, PA – Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced Friday that with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 National Hockey League Draft the team selected D Aaron Ekblad from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
“We are thrilled to have selected Aaron with the No. 1 pick,” said Tallon. “He is a strong, smart and physically mature defenseman who skates well and can play at both ends of the ice. Aaron is another building block for our team and we are confident that he will fit well with our young nucleus of talented players that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson. We look forward to his continued growth and contributions to our team and the South Florida community.”
Ekblad, 18, was named the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman during the 2013-2014 season, ranking first among the league’s blueliners with 23 goals and tied for fifth with 53 points (23-20-53). The 6-foot-3, 213-pouind defenseman became just the third player (in their 18-year-old birth year) to claim the honor in the past 20 years, following Ryan Ellis (selected 11th overall by Nashville in 2009) and Bryan Berard (selected 1st overall by Ottawa in 1995). He also served as Barrie’s team captain.
The Belle River, Ontario, native played a top-four role as a 17-year-old for Team Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship, registering two points (1-1-2) in seven games. On the international level, Ekblad captained Team Canada to the 2013 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial gold medal. He also served as captain of Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Ekblad was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2011 OHL Priority Selection as a 15-year-old. He was just the second player in OHL history to be given exceptional player status, following John Tavares in 2005. In his rookie season with Barrie, he recorded (10-19-29) in 63 games, earning OHL Rookie of the Year honors.
On day two of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, the Florida Panthers drafted five players: four forwards and one goaltender. Selections include C/RW Jayce Hawryluk (2nd round, 32nd overall), RW Juho Lammikko (3rd round, 65th overall), RW Joe Wegwerth (4th round, 92nd overall), LW Miguel Fidler (6th round, 143rd overall) and G Hugo Fagerblom (7th round, 182nd overall).
The Panthers acquired a third round pick from the New York Islanders in exchange for Florida’s third round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. With this, they selected Lammikko 65th overall.
Hawryluk, 18, has spent the last two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. Last season he played in 59 games posting 64 points (24-40-64) with 44 PIM. The Roblin, Manitoba native helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial and was a part of his country’s bronze medal winning team at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship.
Lammikko, 18, played last season in the Finnish Liiga scoring one point (0-1-1) in 20games. He also played in 37 games for the Assat Under-20 team posting 42 points (17-25-42) and 32 PIM.
Wegwerth, 18, played with the USA Under-18 team in the USHL last season scoring six points (3-3-6) in 52 games played, to go with 123 PIM. He will spend next season in the USHL and has committed to play collegiate hockey at the University of Notre Dame in the future.
Fidler, 18, spent the 2013-14 season playing for Edina (MN) High School scoring 41 points (16-25-41) in 25 games with 24 PIM. He is expected to join the USHL’s Lincoln Stars next season and to play collegiate hockey at Ohio State University in 2015-16.
Fagerblom, 18, spend the 2013-14 season with Frolunda Under-18 in the Swedish Under-18 Junior League. In eight games played, Fagerblom posted a 2.24 GAA, one shutout and a .916 Save Percentage.