PHILADELPHIA – Florida selected Aaron Ekblad with the first pick in the NHL draft on Friday, making him the first defenseman to go No. 1 since St. Louis took Erik Johnson in 2006.
“I want that burden of expectation,” Ekblad said. “I want that feel for motivation and I want to succeed under that.”
The Panthers had a top-three pick in the NHL draft for the fourth time in the past five years.
The first three — defenseman Erik Gudbranson (in 2010), wing Jonathan Huberdeau (2011) and center Aleksander Barkov (2013) — all played significant roles last season. Florida also won the draft lottery in 2002 and 2003, but traded away those picks.