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.
You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has. In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there.
— Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Brent Burns returning back to defense