Photo: Forward Aleksander Barkov is poised for a breakout sophomore season with the Florida Panthers. Barkov was the second overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
After a year in which several prospects left the Panthers system, the summer brought new faces to Florida. Among them is the first overall pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, Aaron Ekblad, a towering, talented defenseman who could be just one of several prospects earning full-time NHL roster spots this fall.
Photo: University of Michigan defenseman and Florida Panthers prospect Michael Downing posted two goals and 10 assists along with 60 penalty minutes in his freshman season with the Wolverines (courtesy of Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)
At the midpoint of the first period in the USA’s first post-cutdown game at the 2014 National Junior Evaluation Camp, Team USA defenseman Michael Downing took a pass from University of Michigan teammate J.T. Compher and fired a point shot past Sweden goaltender Jonas Johansson to score the opening goal in what would be a 7-1 romp for the U.S. squad. Read more»
Photo: Defenseman Aaron Ekblad was the top selection in the 2014 NHL Draft. Ekblad is the second defenseman in Panthers franchise history to be drafted first overall, the other being Ed Jovanovski in 1994. (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has been steadily building a team geared for long-term NHL success by building through the NHL Draft, making key trades and signing stop-gap free agents to meet salary needs.
Photo: Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad was the first pick of the Florida Panthers at the 2014 NHL Draft, as well as the first selection overall (courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)
Growing up in Windsor, ON, just across the river from Detroit, Aaron Ekblad followed the Detroit Red Wings as a child. He attributes watching Nicklas Lidstrom as the reason he wears the number five today. Read more»
Photo: The Buffalo Sabres added to their already deep draft pool with nine selections at the 2014 NHL Draft, including first round pick Sam Reinhart (L) and second round selection Brandon Lemieux (R) (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL's Western Conference currently has the bragging rights to league supremacy as a a result of the Los Angeles Kings five-game Stanley Cup final win over the New York Rangers. While the results from the 2014 NHL Draft may not alter the current lock the West has on the NHL's most prized trophy, at least one team in the Eastern Conference might be offering a ray of hope for the future.