The Florida Panthers have won the draft lottery for the first time since 2003 when they then traded the pick. The Panthers have made the playoffs just once since 2000 which is incredibly woeful but the team is filled with young talent and of course the number one pick in this years draft. There are a “big 3” as far as top prospects this year in Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, and Sam Reinhart which is quite different from last year when Nathan MacKinnon was the clear and consensus top choice. According to our friends at capgeek.com the Panthers have just about 30 Million dollars until they reach the salary cap ceiling. They are also very likely to compliance buyout Ed Jovonaski and potentially yet doubtfully 1 of Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, or Tomas Fleishmann. New owner Vinny Viola a prominent New York businessman has stated he is willing to spend to the cap and he wants to win.
General Manager Dale Tallon has stated that he wants to sign 2 defenseman and most likely 3 forwards. This is a very weak free agency class when it comes to defenseman with the biggest names out there being Markov, Niskanen, and Zidlicky. Ultimately though i think that Dale will draft the best available player rather than most needed. I think you combine that with the success of Huberdeau and Barkov the pick will likely be a forward. The Panthers have depth at the center position though which both Bennett and Reinhart play not to mention they also have interest in Maple Leafs UFA Dave Bolland. Of the two forwards, according to draft experts they say Sam Bennett will likely be able to switch to left wing which the Panthers do have a need there. In the end I strongly believe that the pick will come down to Sam Bennett or Aaron Ekblad. I also think that the Panthers will not move this pick unless its for a young controllable player such as Jeff Skinner or Evander Kane. I really don’t see the Panthers trading down either. So…
With the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft the Florida Panthers select Sam Bennett
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