Aaron Ekblad is selected first overall by the Florida Panthers in the first round Friday of the 2014 NHL Draft. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)
Philadelphia — The Florida Panthers selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday night.
The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Ekblad played for Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League. He is the first defenseman to go No. 1 since St. Louis took Erik Johnson in 2006.
Without a clear-cut No. 1, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was open to trading the pick. In the end, he decided to take the 18-year-old defenseman from Belle River, Ontario, with the first selection at the Wells Fargo Center.
“That is the burden of expectation. I chase it,” Ekblad said. “I want that burden of expectation. 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.
“He is a strong, smart and physically mature defenseman who skates well and can play at both ends of the ice,” Tallon said.
Ekblad was the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman last season, ranking first among defensemen with 23 goals and tying for fifth with 53 points. He also served as Barrie’s captain.
Salary cap rises
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association say the salary cap for the 2014-15 season is going up to $69 million after a year of record revenues.
In a joint announcement Friday before the NHL draft, the sides said the cap is rising from the $64.3 million upper limit that teams operated on during the just-completed season. As stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players, clubs must maintain a minimum payroll of $51 million.
Ex-enforcer Odjick dying
Former Canucks enforcer Gino Odjick says he has a rare terminal illness.
Odjick, in a letter published Thursday on the Canucks’ website, said he was diagnosed with AL (Primary) Amyloidosis two months ago. The disease is “causing abnormal protein to be produced and deposits are being formed on my heart,” Odjick said.
“It’s hardening my heart and my doctors aren’t sure how long I have to live,” he added.
Odjick, 43, played from 1990-2002 in the NHL, including eight years in Vancouver and two in Montreal. He also played for the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, scoring 64 goals, getting 73 assists and 2,567 penalty minutes in 605 regular-season games.
The Penguins have sent forward James Neal (27 goals, 34 assists) to the Predators in exchange for forwards Patric Hornqvist (22, 31) and Nick Spaling (13, 19).
... Forwards Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin and backup goalie Antti Raanta have agreed to two-year contract extensions with the Blackhawks through the 2015-16 season.
... The Sharks have signed restricted free agent forward Travis Oleksuk to a one-year contract. Oleksuk had 19 goals and 21 assists in 74 games last season with Worcester of the AHL.
... The Coyotes are buying out the final three years of center Mike Ribeiro’s contract. Ribeiro was considered a major acquisition when he signed a four-year, $22 million contract last season.
|1||Florida||Aaron Ekblad||D||6-4/216||Ontario League|
|2||Buffalo||Sam Reinhart||C||6-1/185||Western League|
|3||Edmonton||Leon Draisaitl||C||6-2/209||Western League|
|4||Calgary||Sam Bennett||C||6-0/178||Ontario League|
|5||N.Y. Islanders||Michael Dal Colle||LW||6-1/182||Ontario League|
|6||Vancouver||Jake Virtanen||LW||6-1/208||Western League|
|7||Carolina||Haydn Fleury||D||6-2/203||Western League|
|9||Winnipeg||Nikolaj Ehlers||LW||5-11/162||Quebec Junior|
|10||Anaheim||Nicholas Ritchie||LW||6-2/226||Ontario League|
|11||Nashville||Kevin Fiala||LW||5-10/180||Sweden Junior|
|12||Arizona||Brendan Perlini||LW||6-3/202||Ontario League|
|14||Dallas||Julius Honka||D||5-11/181||Western League|
|15||Detroit||Dylan Larkin||C||6-1/190||U.S. Development|
|16||Columbus||Sonny Milano||LW||5-11/183||U.S. Development|
|17||Philadelphia||Travis Sanheim||D||6-3/181||Western League|
|18||Minnesota||Alex Tuch||RW||6-3/213||U.S. Development|
|19||Tampa Bay||Anthony DeAngelo||D||5-10/170||Ontario League|
|20||Chicago-a||Nick Schmaltz||C||5-11/172||U.S. Development|
|21||St. Louis||Robert Fabbri||C||5-10/170||Ontario League|
|23||Colorado||Conner Bleackley||C||6-0/192||Western League|
|24||Vancouver-b||Jared McCann||C||6-1/178||Ontario League|
|26||Montreal||Nikita Scherbak||RW||6-1/175||Western League|
|27||San Jose-a||Nikolay Goldobin||LW||6-0/178||Ontario League|
|28||N.Y. Islanders||Joshua Ho-Sang||C/RW||5-11/175||Ontario League|
|29||Los Angeles||Adrian Kempe||LW||6-1/187||Sweden|
|30||New Jersey||John Quenneville||C||6-0/182||Western League|
a-San Jose trades picks 20 and 179 to Chicago for picks 27 and 62; b-Anaheim traded pick 24 to Vancouver Ryan Kesler