(photo: Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports)
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is not shy when it comes to making moves on draft day. In his first year as General Manager in 2010, he made a splash with no less than 13 draft picks, a record-high for the Florida Panthers franchise, including 3 picks in the opening round. This year, with the Panthers sitting on the first overall selection, there was buzz as to whether Tallon would either be content with, or consider offers for the coveted top pick.
Among others, the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers made offers for the #1 overall, but in the end, no offer was enough for Tallon to give up the first pick. The Florida Panthers staff and Dale Tallon turned down deals involving Jason Garrison, Brayden Schenn, and Vincent Lecavalier in favor of drafting defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Not before letting Ekblad and the fans at Wells Fargo Center squirm, however.
After thanking the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia, congratulating the Kings, and inviting fans to Florida for the 2015 draft… Tallon still wasn’t ready to calm Ekblad’s nerves. He began “from the Ontario Hockey League,” but stopped for a dramatic pause that elicited chuckles from the crowd. Finally he called out Ekblad’s name, who joins an exclusive club of first overall draftees.
“I made Ekblad sweat a little,” Tallon said. “I thought this is show business. This is entertainment, isn’t it?”
“I was freaking out there for a second when he stopped,” Ekblad said. “Obviously I was hoping for the best, hoping for my name to be called. But I could only hold on for so long.”
Ekblad won’t have to wait very long to join the team, though. He is said to be an NHL-ready player and he is looking forward to being a part of the Florida Panthers organization. The defenseman even gained exceptional player status at the age of 15 to play a year early in the OHL.
“I am for sure,” he told TSN. “I believe in myself and I’m confident that I can step into the league next year. I think that’s what the Florida Panthers see in me.”
Ekblad knows the Panthers have holes to fill, and will have high expectations of him.
“That’s the burden of expectation. I chase it,” Ekblad said. “I want the burden of expectation, that feel for motivation. I want to succeed under that.”
Aside from hoping to go first overall, Ekblad thought the Panthers would be a good fit for him.
“I wanted to get drafted by Florida because they are an up and coming team where I can facilitate my development and help them win a Stanley Cup,” he said in an interview after being selected.
The Panthers have been in a rebuilding stage for a few years now, but Ekblad sees potential in the team we have here.
“They have a young core and they want a Stanley Cup,” Ekblad said. “This D core in a couple years is going to be pretty good. And, of course, if I am a part of that, I hope to help out.”