No clear-cut option for top pick in NHL draft

The NHL may as well put out a casting call for a movie set in Philadelphia. The league sent its top draft prospects to all the tourist areas for photos and interviews, from the Rocky statue, to the baseball stadium, and, yes, the obligatory cheesesteak stand.

PHILADELPHIA — The NHL may as well put out a casting call for a movie set in Philadelphia.

The league sent its top draft prospects to all the tourist areas for photos and interviews, from the Rocky statue, to the baseball stadium, and, yes, the obligatory cheesesteak stand.

But much like the fictional fighter who conquered the odds, only one standout can stand tall as the No. 1 overall pick.

And with the first pick of the 2014 draft, the Florida Panthers select …

Well, unlike some of the recent drafts, this one remained a mystery heading into Friday night’s draft at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

There is no consensus No. 1 pick and the Panthers have plenty of options to help try and turn the franchise into a consistent playoff team.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, however, hasn’t been shy about his willingness to trade the No. 1 pick for the right price. Florida has been stockpiling prospects since Tallon became general manager in May 2010, and the GM wants his young team to grow together.

The top candidates for No. 1 include: Kingston Frontenacs centre Samuel Bennett, Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl.

Ekblad, Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Oshawa left wing Michael Dal Colle, and Sarnia defenceman Michael DeAngelo all were invited to tour Philadelphia this week and check out the sights. They’d all rather check out a No. 1 jersey with a name on the back Friday night.

If the Panthers don’t trade the pick, Ekblad just might be the one.

The Sabres have the second pick, and Edmonton; Calgary; N.Y. Islanders; Vancouver; Carolina; Toronto; Winnipeg; and Anaheim complete the top 10.

“I believe that Ekblad is going to go 1,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said.

“Then we pick who we have left, the next guy on our list. If he doesn’t go 1, I’d be surprised, I guess. And I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

BIG NAMES: Never heard of any of the prospects expected to get drafted?

No problem. The big names on the market are more than enough to interest NHL fans heading into the draft. Philadelphia’s Vincent Lecavalier, San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Pittsburgh’s James Neal, Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza are all up for grabs this summer, and what better way to make a splash on draft weekend than with a huge deal.

STACKING UP: The Los Angeles Kings won two of the past three Stanley Cups and seemed poised to build a hockey dynasty in an unlikely place.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi will likely only make small tweaks to his championship roster. Of the 24 players on the Kings’ 2012 championship roster, 17 are still with the organization. He can draft — and he has plenty of chances this week to build the roster from within. The Kings are one of five teams that have a whopping nine picks this weekend, along with Dallas, the New York Islanders, St. Louis and Washington.

NEXT YEAR: Like any draft, the names are barely called when teams are already looking toward 2015. The NHL announced the 2015 draft will be held June 26-27 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canopy Growth Corp. will deepen its U.S. presence by launching four sparkling cannabidiol waters, shown in a handout photo, there before possible federal legalization. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canopy Growth
Canopy Growth launches first CBD drinks in U.S. as legalization talk intensifies

Quatreau sparkling waters will be sold through e-commerce

A nurse assistant prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program for health workers at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andre Penner
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 needs better promotion: experts

National Advisory Committee on Immunization makes recommendations

A man receives his COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Olympic Stadium marking the beginning of mass vaccination in the Province of Quebec based on age in Montreal, on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Most Canadians confident federal vaccine rollout is back on track: poll

Fifty-six per cent of respondents confident in vaccine supply

Air Transat and Air Canada aircraft are seen on the tarmac at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
International air travel a fraction of pre-pandemic times

International air travel during pandemic less than a 10th of what it was before COVID-19

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2020, file photo, former NBA player Shaquille O’ Neal is interviewed on the red carpet for Shaq’s Fun House in Miami. O’Neal is set to perform in his first competitive match when he teams in All Elite Wrestling with Jade Cargill in a mixed tag to take on Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet at Daily’s Place on an episode of “Dynamite,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Shaq Attack: O’Neal ready to rumble in tag match for AEW

O’Neal’s first competitive match with All Elite Wrestling

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, center, speaks during a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)
Tokyo Olympics add 12 women to executive board to reach 42 per cent

Board will now have 19 women among its 45 members

The Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre is shown in Stratford, Ont., on May 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins
Stratford Festival plans next stages with two outdoor summer venues

Ontario festival productions set for between late June and the end of September

Treena Mielke
From record player to CD

When I first began dating my husband, he drove a little old… Continue reading

Opinion
Ottawa banks on Big Pharma making Canada pandemic-proof

Liberal fireball François-Philippe Champagne may be brand new to his portfolio as… Continue reading

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones
Health: Keep blood pressure under control

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the things you think you… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Most Read