Panthers reportedly eyeing Ekblad, who loves sunshine

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NEW YORK — The Florida Panthers might trade the first overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. But if they don’t, the Sun Sentinel, citing a team source, reports that they’re leaning towards selecting big defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

Now, for the record, everything that comes from a team source ahead of the draft should be taken with a grain of salt. If the Panthers say they’re leaning towards Ekblad, maybe they are. Then again, maybe they’re just throwing his name out there, in case another team covets Ekblad.

But if they do take Ekblad, it doesn’t sound like he’ll have any trouble moving to Florida.

“I love sunshine,” the 18-year-old told reporters today in a New York hotel.

Of course, “I don’t mind snow either.”

Wherever he ends up, Ekblad would love to be the first overall pick.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It’s a lifelong dream.”

Nathan MacKinnon was last year’s first overall pick, by the Colorado Avalanche. Others current NHL stars that were top picks include John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, and Joe Thornton.

Oddly enough, Ekblad’s favorite player, and the one he patterns his game after, wasn’t drafted until the third round. Or come to think of it, maybe it’s not that odd, since Nicklas Lidstrom is as good a role model as any for a young defenseman.

“He was a pretty special player,” said Ekblad. “Everyone says he’s a great person off the ice, too, and I think that’s pretty important.”

What does it take to be an elite number-one defenseman like Lidstrom was for the Detroit Red Wings?

“Attention to details,” said Ekblad. “Knowing when to be simple, when to jump into the rush and provide offense. Playing good defense first. Being good on the power play and penalty kill. It takes being an all-around, full-package player. A two-way defenseman.”

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Ekblad explains why the Panthers are the best place for his development