Defenseman Aaron Ekblad recently completed his third season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound right-hand shot is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. He was named the OHL defenseman of the year after finishing with career highs in goals (23), assists (30), power-play goals (16), points (53) and penalty minutes (91). He earned first-place finishes for best shot, hardest shot, best offensive defenseman and best defensive defenseman in the OHL Eastern Conference in 2013-14. Ekblad offered to maintain a blog leading up to the 2014 draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He was the No. 1 pick of the Florida Panthers on June 27, 2014.
PHILADELPHIA -- Hello hockey fans!
Well, what a night here at Wells Fargo Center at the 2014 NHL Draft. The Florida Panthers selected me as the No. 1 pick, and I am completely overwhelmed right now. Everything is still going in slow motion.
When the NHL commissioner said the Panthers were on the clock I was like, 'Please pick me.' I really just wanted to get the jitters over with. I had no business sitting in that seat any longer.
After Mr. [Dale] Tallon announced my name, I had it all planned out what I was going to do. I was going to go to my dad first because he helped me out and was always there for me. I then went to my brother because he was between my dad and mom. So then I saved the best for last … my mom. I knew she would give me crap for not hugging her first, so I had to make up for it and save the best for last.
It was such a special moment. To be able to share that experience with them was great. As I was walking out, my knees were beginning to buckle. I swear … my heart was racing.
When I got to the stage, Mr. Tallon welcomed me and said he was happy to have me part of the organization. He asked me if I ever thought they were seriously thinking of trading the pick. I really didn't know how to answer that question so I just shrugged my shoulders.
This is such an awesome feeling. I have to congratulate all the guys drafted [on Friday]. I've grown up with most of them, and many have taught me a lot about the game. In turn I've taught them quite a bit too. It's a special feeling. But I know I now have to work even harder to even crack this lineup.
When I woke up Friday morning, I went upstairs to breakfast and was under-dressed. So I had to go back to my room and do things differently … I had shorts and flip-flops on. After that I took a nap and then did some things with Bauer Hockey before going to lunch with some players and the coaching staff of the Barrie Colts. It was a great afternoon.
Afterwards, I rested up a bit and then made the trip to Wells Fargo Center with my family.
The NHL Draft was an experience I'll never forget. Now I know the real work begins.
Thanks for reading my blog this season.
Follow Aaron Ekblad on Twitter at: @EK5Colts