There were many surprises in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, but that doesn’t mean there was a shortage of interesting storylines.
Barrie Colts standout blueliner Aaron Ekblad was taken first overall by Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers, becoming the first defenceman taken No. 1 in eight years.
The last time the Panthers had the top pick they selected Ed Jovanovski in 1994. Both Ekblad and Jovanovski were born in Windsor, Ont. Jovanovski is the current captain of the Panthers and could act as a mentor to Ekblad next season should the youngster make the roster out of training camp.
Ekblad is just the 13th defenceman to get top billing at the draft. Here’s every defenceman to go No. 1 overall in NHL history:
2014 – Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers, Barrie Colts
2006 – Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues, U.S. National U-18
1996 – Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators, Prince Albert Raiders
1995 – Bryan Berard, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Jr. Red Wings
1994 – Ed Jovanovski, Florida Panthers, Windsor Spitfires
1992 – Roman Hamrlik, Tampa Bay Lightning, ZPS Zlin (Czech.)
1982 – Gord Kluzak, Boston Bruins, Nanaimo Islanders
1979 – Rob Ramage, Colorado Rockies, London Knights
1976 – Rick Green, Washington Capitals, London Knights
1974 – Greg Joly, Washington Capitals, Regina Pats
1973 – Denis Potvin, New York Islanders, Ottawa 67’s
1967 – Rick Pagnutti, Los Angeles Kings, Garson Native Sons
1966 – Barry Gibbs, Boston Bruins, Estevan Bruins
OHL continues producing top prospects
Ekblad is the sixth OHL player drafted first in the past eight years. He joins:
2012 – Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting
2010 – Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires
2009 – John Tavares, London Knights
2008 – Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting
2007 – Patrick Kane, London Knights
International flavour in Round 1
There was plenty of geographical variety among the 30 players taken Friday, as skaters from 10 countries were selected: Canada (14), United States (five), Czech Republic (two), Finland (two), Russia (two), Denmark (one), England (one), Germany (one), Sweden (one) and Switzerland (one).
– Oilers’ pick Leon Draisaitl, who went third overall, became the highest-drafted German-born player in NHL history. Marcel Goc, who was selected 20th overall by San Jose in 2001, held the previous record.
– Jets’ pick Nikolaj Ehlers, who was selected ninth overall, became the second-highest drafted Danish-born player in NHL history behind only Mikkel Boedker, who was picked eighth overall by the Coyotes in 2008.
Family hockey connections aplenty
– Sam Reinhart, who was picked second overall by the Sabres, became the highest-drafted member of his family. His brother Griffin was taken fourth overall by the Islanders in 2012; his brother Max was selected 63rd overall by the Flames in 2010; his dad, Paul, was drafted 12th overall in 1979 by the Atlanta Flames and played 11 NHL seasons with the Flames and Canucks.
– Leafs’ pick William Nylander is the son of 15-season NHL veteran Michael Nylander, who registered 679 points in 920 career games. Nylander played for seven teams in his NHL career (Whalers, Flames, Lightning, Blackhawks, Capitals, Bruins, Rangers) but the Leafs weren’t one of them.
– Kasperi Kapanen, selected 22nd overall by the Penguins, is the son of longtime NHLer Sami Kapanen, who had 458 points in 831 games withthe Whalers, Hurricanes and Flyers.
– John Quenneville, the Devils’ selection, has an older brother, Peter, that was drafted 195th overall by the Blue Jackets last year; their younger brother, David, made his WHL debut this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Quenneville’s uncle by marriage is current Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk and his second cousin is current Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
– Coyotes’ pick Brendan Perlini’s father, Fred, played eight games with the Maple Leafs after being drafted by the team 158th overall in 1980.
– Leon Draisaitl’s father, Peter, was a Czech-born German pro that represented his country at the 1988, 1992 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games.
– Nikolaj Ehlers’ father, Heinz, was selected 188th overall by the Rangers in the 1984 NHL Draft.
– Nick Ritchie, who went 10th to the Ducks, joins his brother Brett as a budding NHL prospect. Brett was selected 44th overall by the Stars in 2011 and won a Calder Cup championship this season with the Texas Stars of the AHL in 2013-14.
– Blackhawks’ Nick Schmaltz was taken 20th overall. His brother Jordan was taken 25th overall by the Blues in 2012 and currently plays defence for the University of North Dakota.