PHILADELPHIA -- The Florida Panthers selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall pick of the 2014 NHL draft on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
"Honestly, it's pure relief," Ekblad said. "I have never been a part of such a suspenseful event in my entire life, and I think my parents can say the same. It's a very special moment and I'm very proud of everyone who's helped me get to this point."
The Barrie captain was named the Ontario Hockey League Most Outstanding Defenseman in 2013-14, leading all players at his position with 23 goals and finishing tied for fifth with 53 points.
At 6-feet-3, 213 pounds, the Windsor, Ontario, native has the size and skating ability to compete for a roster spot immediately. He is considered the most NHL-ready player in this year's draft.
Center Sam Reinhart was selected second overall by the Buffalo Sabres.
"You know, I've been prepared for it for a long time," he said. "I've certainly visualized myself in this uniform, and I'm just thrilled and ecstatic to really make an impact there and go to Buffalo for the first time."
From North Vancouver, British Columbia, Reinhart led Kootenay with 105 points in 60 games during the 2013-14 season. He was named 2013-14 Player of the Year at the annual WHL awards.
His father, Paul, was a standout defenseman for the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks in the 1980s and older brothers Max (Flames, 63rd overall in 2010) and Griffin (New York Islanders, 12th overall in 2012) were also drafted.
The Edmonton Oilers made center Leon Draisaitl the third overall pick and the earliest ever from Germany. The 6-1, 208-pound native of Cologne had 105 points in 64 games for Prince Albert of the WHL last season and was considered to be the most NHL-ready forward in this year's draft.
Center Sam Bennett, who was ranked as the No. 1 skater among North American prospects, went fourth overall to the Flames. The Holland Landing, Ontario, native led Kingston of the OHL with 91 points in 57 games. Bennett was an assistant captain on Canada's gold-medal team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow expressed interest in shopping the fifth overall pick leading up to the draft, but opted to select left winger Michael Dal Colle from the Oshawa Generals.
"Amazing. A dream come true," Dal Colle said when asked how it felt to be an Islander. "It's been a pretty busy last week for me and my family, and now that it's over with, it feels great."
The 6-2, 182-pound native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, finished 2013-14 with 95 points in 67 games to lead Oshawa to first place in the Eastern Conference. He also scored the winning goal in the gold-medal game of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial.
Already the busiest team on the trade front with three draft-day deals, the Vancouver Canucks picked left winger Jake Virtanen from Calgary of the WHL at No. 6 overall. Virtanen, a native of New Westminster, British Columbia, scored a team-high 45 goals in his second full WHL season.
Haydn Fleury from Red Deer in the WHL became the second defenseman selected when he was picked seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. Known for his size and skating ability, the 6-2, 202-pound native of Carlyle, Saskatchewan, led all Red Deer defensemen with 46 points in 70 games. He was also named best defenseman at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship, helping Canada to a bronze medal.
Right winger William Nylander from Modo in Sweden was the first European-based player chosen, going eighth overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I like to score goals and make plays and work hard on both ends of the ice," Nylander said when asked to describe his game.
The son of Michael Nylander, who had a 15-year NHL career, William was selected as the best forward at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship after leading all players with 10 assists and 16 points in seven games as Sweden finished fourth.
Winnipeg selected Danish left winger Nikolaj Ehlers out of Halifax of the QMJHL with the ninth overall pick. The quick, clever playmaker finished fourth in the QMJHL with 104 points in 63 games while playing alongside Tampa Bay prospect Jonathan Drouin, who was selected third overall in the 2013 draft. Ehlers was named Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year and Best Professional Prospect and had a league-best plus-45 rating.
Left winger Nicholas Ritchie from Peterborough in the OHL rounded out the top 10 when he was sleected by the Anaheim Ducks. At 6-2, 226-pound, the Orangeville, Ontario, native is big, physical, prototypical power forward. Ritchie led Peterborough with 39 goals and 74 points during the regular season and became the third player in franchise history to score five goals in a game. His brother, Brett, was selected 44th overall by Dallas in 2011.
Swiss center Kevin Fiala was selected 11th overall by the Nashville Predators. The 17-year-old registered 10 goals and 25 points in 27 games with HV 71 in Sweden's Under-20 league.
The newly renamed Arizona Coyotes selected left winger Brendan Perlini from Niagara in the OHL with the 12th pick. The 6-2, 205-pound native of Guildford, England, led Niagara with 24 goals in 58 games and finished second on the team with 71 points.
Czech center Jakub Vrana was taken 13th overall by the Washington Capitals. The native of Prague spent 2013-14 with Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League, split between the senior team in the country's top professional league and the junior club. He led the Czech Republic in scoring in the past two Under-18 World Championships.
Finnish defenseman Julius Honka from Swift Current in the WHL was selected 14th overall by the Dallas Stars. An offensive-minded defenseman who models his game after Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Honka was a member of Finland's gold medal-winning team at the 2014 World Junior Championship.
Center Dylan Larkin became the first player from the United States Under-18 Development Program selected, going to the Detroit Red Wings with the 15th overall pick. The Waterford, Mich., native was second on the Under-18 team with 31 goals and fourth in points with 56 in 60 games.