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No. 1 pick Ekblad signs, believes he'll make Panthers

Wednesday, 09.03.2014 / 7:32 PM / News

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad reached a second important milestone in his NHL journey Wednesday when he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers.

Now comes the next, and perhaps most challenging, step: making the Panthers' opening-night roster.

"I consider it as a set of milestones leading up to my first NHL season," Ekblad said. "Obviously the draft was a big one, this is a big one, and coming into camp next week is going to be a big one as well. I'm pretty excited. It's a pretty cool experience for sure."

Ekblad, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, is hoping to join a young Panthers defense that has two players older than 24, Brian Campbell (35) and free-agent acquisition Willie Mitchell (37).

Ekblad, 18, said he's very confident he can earn a spot in a group that figures to include 2009 first-round pick Dmitry Kulikov (23) and 2010 No. 3 pick Erik Gudbranson (22).

"If you don't believe in yourself you're putting yourself behind the eight-ball," Ekblad said. "I do believe in myself. I believe I can be on this team opening night. I'm very confident in that. I feel like I'm ready. I couldn't be in a better position than where I am."

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