Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced the deal Wednesday, eight days before Ekblad will begin competing at Florida's annual camp for prospects. Ekblad was the Ontario Hockey League's top defenceman last season, with 23 goals and 53 points.
Tallon says Ekblad "is a talented, strong, smart and hardworking defenceman who is ready to take the next step."
Ekblad also attended Hockey Canada's world junior summer development camp last month, his stay there ending early because of a concussion. Ekblad was held out of the rest of that camp for precautionary reasons.
Florida's prospects camp begins a week before the start of Panthers' training camp, the first under new coach Gerard Gallant.