Philadelphia (AFP) - The Florida Panthers selected Canadian defenceman Aaron Ekblad with the top pick in the 2014 National Hockey League entry draft.
The 1.93 metre (6-foot-4) Ekblad is expected to bolster the Panthers' blueline with his dynamic skills and steady presence.
In 58 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Ekblad finished with 23 goals and 53 assists. He also tallied two goals and six points in nine playoff games.
"I wanted to get drafted by Florida because they are an up and coming team where I can facilitate my development and help them win a Stanley Cup," Ekblad said on Friday.
The Calgary Flames snagged centre Sam Bennett fourth and the New York Islanders chose left winger Michael Dal Colle to round out the top five picks.
The entry draft, held this year at the home of the Philadelphia Flyers, is the annual selection of the top junior players which allows NHL teams to replenish their talent pools.
Four of the top five players drafted Friday were from Canada.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he hopes Ekblad can become a shut down defenceman who goes up against the top lines on the other teams.
"His character is impeccable," said Tallon. "He is so mature for his age. He is a guy you can build a solid team around.
"We have to take our time, take baby steps, we want to continue building our team the way we are building."