The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Ekblad played for Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League. He is the first defenceman to go No. 1 since St. Louis took Erik Johnson in 2006.
Without a clear cut No. 1, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was open to trading the pick. In the end, he decided to take the 18-year-old defenceman with the first selection at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Panthers had a top-three pick in the NHL draft for the fourth time in the past five years. The first three — defenceman Erik Gudbranson (in 2010), wing Jonathan Huberdeau (2011) and centre Aleksander Barkov (2013) — all played significant roles last season.