The first day of the 2014 NHL Draft took place on Friday. The Florida Panthers had the first pick. There was some talk they might trade it, but that trade never came to fruition. Instead, the Panthers decided to draft Aaron Ekblad, a defenseman.
This was the expected move for the Panthers. There are those who disagree with taking a defenseman first overall, because they tend to take longer to develop than forwards. That may be true, but that isn't always the case. Seth Jones hit the ground running last season, and he's not the only one to do so. Plus, it's not like the Panthers are expecting to win the Cup next season. If he isn't good for a few years, they'll live, and if he ends up being great by the time he's 22, they've nailed this pick. They have a few good young forwards. Now they have a defenseman they can give ice time to without worrying about him taking ice time from somebody more deserving.
The next three picks were all centers, shockingly. Buffalo took Sam Reinhart, Edmonton, a team that is just so in need of young forwards, took Leon Draisaitl, and Calgary took Sam Bennett. I kid the Oilers. From what I gather, Ekblad was the only blueliner worth taking that high. They basically had to take a forward. Then, with the fifth pick, the Islanders selected a winger in Michael Dal Colle. As we all know, the Islanders decided to use this pick instead of giving it to Buffalo in the Thomas Vanek deal. They'll need to improve their record, and their draft positioning, for next year. Notably, the Islanders also took Josh Ho-Sang 28th overall. He's a name I've been hearing, because while he is apparently quite talented, he is also apparently somewhat eccentric, and perhaps problematically confrontational. We'll have to wait and see, though. Let us not write off an 18-year-old child, and even if he is a jerk, he wouldn't be the first one in professional sports.
It's also worth noting that, once again, no goalies went in the first round. That's the way it goes these days. Goalies are the running backs of the NHL, but for opposite reasons. Running backs are devalued because the position is getting less important and the shelf life is short. Goalies go later because they tend to take a little while to develop, and they seem to be more hit or miss. It is a bit of an industry trend that is self-fulfilling itself, and eventually I bet the trend turns around a bit, but here we are for now.
Anyway, congrats to Aaron Ekblad. The last defenseman to go first overall was Erik Johnson. He's had a pretty good career, but perhaps not quite what people expected. I recommend avoiding golf carts.