Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad heads up 2014 NHL draftees

Cesar Tordesillas – 4E Sports Contributor

Philadelphia, PA, United States (4E Sports) – The Florida Panthers selected Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first pick in the 2014 NHL Draft Friday at Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound 18-year-old led OHL defensemen with 23 goals and was named the league’s best defenseman.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon feels that Ekblad fits with Aleksander Barkov, Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad are cornerstones of their future.

The Buffalo Sabres then took Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart with the second pick.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound forward had 36 goals and 105 points, tied for fourth in the Western Hockey League, in 60 games. He had five points in seven games with Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“He’s just so smart and makes players around him so much better,” said Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray of Reinhart.

The Edmonton Oilers then made Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl the No. 3 pick.

At six-foot-one and 201 pounds, Draisaitl brings some much-needed size at a position where Edmonton is thin.

Picking at No. 4, the Calgary Flames then took Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett.

The 17-year-old emerged as the No. 1 ranked prospect in this year’s class after the publication of the ISS’ mid-term evaluation.

Left wing Michael Dal Colle was taken at No. 5 by the New York Islanders. Dal Colle, who played for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, is recognized as one of the best puck handlers around and has the ability to lose defenders with his agility and puck control.

Calgary Hitmen right wing Jake Virtanen went No. 6 to the Vancouver Canucks. A power forward who NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan compares to Jarome Iginla, Virtanen was Canada’s co-leading scorer at the world under-18 championship.

The Carolina Hurricanes selected Red Deer Rebels defenseman Haydn Fleury at No. 7.

Listed at 6’3, 203 pounds, Fleury is described as an imposing defenseman who is capable of playing in all situations.

Swedish forward William Nylander went No. 8 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He was named the best forward at the 2014 under-18 world championship after leading all players in assists (10) and points (16) in seven games. Sweden finished fourth.

Danish-born left wing Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads went to the Winnipeg Jets at No. 9.

The 5-foot-10, 176-pounder was fourth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 104 points (49-55) in 63 games with the Halifax Mooseheads this past season.

Rounding out the top ten is left wing Nicholas Ritchie of the Peterborough Petes who was taken by the Anaheim Ducks at No. 10.

The 6’2, 226-pounds Ritchie is described as a prototypical power forward who combines the physical side of the game with its beautiful counterpart.

The Nashville Predators picked left wing Kevin Fiala from HV 71 in the Swedish junior league at No. 11; the Arizona Coyotes picked left wing Brendan Perlini from the Niagara IceDogs at No. 12; the Washington Capitals chose Jakub Vrana from Linkoping in Sweden at No. 13; Swift Current defenseman Julius Honka went No. 14 to the Dallas Stars; United States National Team Development Program teammates center Dylan Larkin and left wing Sonny Milano went No. 15 to the Detroit Red Wings.

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