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: Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad signifies his draft position after being chosen first overall at the 2014 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers (courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
The 2014 NHL Draft has come and gone, and another 210 players become the property of NHL teams for at least the next two years in most cases.
Photo: Plymouth Whalers goaltender and former Belle Tire player Alex Nedeljkovic was chosen in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes (courtesy of Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
It's no secret that youth hockey in the United States has made great strides the past few decades.
Players from more geographical locations continue to appear on the rosters of major junior teams in Canada, as well as USHL and NAHL clubs in the U.S. The National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, MI and the squads at the northeastern private schools and NCAA college teams also have more American players than ever.
Photo: The players chosen with the top three selections in the 2014 NHL Draft – Leon Draisaitl (L), Aaron Ekblad (C), and Sam Reinhart (R) – pose in front of the draft stage at Well Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL's Western Conference had some of the most dominant teams in the 2013-14 season — including Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles — thanks largely to forwards such as the Kings' Anze Kopitar, Anaheim's Corey Perry and the Chicago's' Jonathan Toews.
Photo: Barrie Colts defenseman and 2014 prospect Aaron Ekblad is said to be the most NHL-ready player in this year’s NHL Draft class (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
While it may not be the slam-dunk consensus that previous years have provided, either Sam Bennett or Aaron Ekblad are the odds-on favorites to be the sixth first-overall NHL Draft selection in the past nine years to come from the OHL.