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EKBLAD TALKS: Panthers first pick meets the media

PHILADELPHIA -- Here is the complete transcript from Aaron Ekblad's inital news conference after being the first overall pick by the Florida Panthers on Friday. The transcripts are provided from the NHL through ASAP Sports.


June 27, 2014

Aaron Ekblad


Q. What's your reaction?
AARON EKBLAD: Honestly, it's pure relief. 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.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: I am. I've said that from the very beginning that I believe in myself and I'm confident, and I think if you don't believe in yourself and you're not confident, you're putting yourself behind the 8‑ball right off the bat. I believe if I work hard this summer I can step into the NHL next year. Obviously I'm going to need a lot of help and it's going to be a learning curve, but I'm confident in myself.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: I did not know. I was freaking out there for a second when he stopped. It was breathtaking to say the least. It was breathtaking.

Q. Did you think he was going to call Sam's name?
AARON EKBLAD: I had no idea. Obviously I was hoping for the best, hoping for my name to be called. But you never want to hope for someone else. But it's a great experience, and I've got to thank the guys here that were drafted, as well, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Draisaitl, and I'm not sure if (inaudible) has gone yet, but they're all my great friends and I'm very proud of those guys, as well.

Q. A lot of young talent in Florida. Are you excited to be part of that pool?
AARON EKBLAD: Of course. It's pretty cool. They have a young corps and they won a Stanley Cup. This D corps in a couple years is going to be pretty good, and of course if I'm a part of that I hope to help out.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: Talking with him and‑‑ NHL combine, stuff like that? You know what, they were pretty relaxed. They didn't tip their hat or show any cards off the table. They were joking around with me a second ago and said they knew from the very beginning, but who knows. Obviously they want to look for the best possible option, and if they believe in me, then that's great.

Q. Did they make it clear that they want to win now and that's why they picked you?
AARON EKBLAD: I'm sure that's the case. I haven't had an extensive talk with them, but other than at the combine and stuff like that. But I feel like I can step in next year and make a difference.

Q. How about playing with guys like Gudbranson and Kulikov and mentioned some guys, Olsen and talk about that young corps of defenseman.
AARON EKBLAD: That's great. Obviously that's what I want to see. I want to jump into a young corps where I can help and be a leader within those guys and let them lead me and support me. I think it's a two‑way street that way, and I think that'll help me out a lot next year.

Q. The way this crowd was going tonight, were you afraid you were going to get booed?
AARON EKBLAD: For a second there my dad was like, don't worry about it, it's not you. But that's the way it is. That's hockey, and I think the Philadelphia fans are very proud of hockey's youth these days. Well, why wouldn't you be, right? You want the game to grow, and that's what we're all doing here.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: Yeah, it's pretty special actually that Ed Jovanovski is actually from my hometown and 20 years apart we were both picked first overall. That's a story in its own. I have yet to meet him, and hopefully I do soon and get to talking with him about next year and the Florida Panthers.

Q. Maybe he'll invite you out to dinner. He's got a nice spread.
AARON EKBLAD: I'm sure he does.

Q. Who was here for you tonight?
AARON EKBLAD: My entire family. I don't want to leave anyone out, but a lot of people, 25, 30 people. A couple of my best friends, aunts, uncles, grandfather. My grandma is back home watching right now, couldn't make it obviously. Of course I love her and everyone else that's helped me along the way.

Q. Who was your biggest influence in life?
AARON EKBLAD: I think from the very beginning my dad, he's the first one to put me in skates, and I think the best thing is he never pushed me to play the game. I had passion for it, and from the very beginning once a stick was in my hand and my boots were laced up, I was ready to go and ready to believe in myself and be confident, and of course there was times when I stepped off the tracks, but they're always there to put you back on and dust you off and get you ready to go.

Q. What does a day like today (inaudible)?
AARON EKBLAD: By far the longest day of my entire life. That's obvious. Like I said, I've never been through more of a suspenseful day. Like I said, they didn't tip their hat. They didn't show their cards whatsoever, and that's what made it all the more exciting, and the anxiety was building up there.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: The new coach? I have. I met him yesterday afternoon. Obviously I think he's going to have some great ideas to try and turn this team around and get them winning.

Q. Did you have any advance notice that you were going to be the pick before they announced you?
AARON EKBLAD: No, I didn't. I was sitting there just kind of scared and excited at the same time.

Q. How does the pressure from trying to go No.1, how does the pressure change, the nature of it, from trying to be drafted to now all the expectations that come with being drafted high?
AARON EKBLAD: Oh, it's never ending. There's always a burden of expectation that's always going to be there, but it's what you make of it, that pressure and all that is just motivation for me.

Q. How do you deal with it?
AARON EKBLAD: There's help everywhere, my parents, my brother, all my friends, great support group. I know guys that play in the NHL right now that I could turn to at any point and they'd be able to give me the best advice out there.

Q. Talk about the Barrie Colts.
AARON EKBLAD: The Barrie Colts are such a classy organization. I've been there for three years now. I was the captain of the team in my last year. My teammates over the last three years, I don't want to mention any names and leave anyone out, but they know who they are and they've really helped me. I wouldn't be where I was today if it wasn't for my rookie year, I've got to say Reid McNeill. He turned me into the player I am today because he forced me to talk and forced me to keep my stick on the puck and all that kind of stuff. He was just a really good mentor for me in my rookie year. I've got to name names. Norm Ezekiel, I lived with him my first year. Colin Behenna, Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson, guys that you'll see in the NHL now, Tanner Pearson just won a Stanley Cup. It's pretty amazing what these guys have done. Brendan Lemieux this year, Johnny Laser, my defense partner for the last couple of years. Some of these guys are my best friends, and it's so amazing to go through hockey and have that, Dale Hawerchuk as a coach, one of the best coaches around and one of the best players to ever play the game. So it's a classy organization, and I'm proud to be a part of them and be a part of the Florida Panthers, as well.

Q. Given your journey here, do you feel older than your years?
AARON EKBLAD: I have a lot of life experience you could say. I think there's still a lot more I need to learn and a lot more life experiences for me out there for sure.

Q. Did it help you being the No.1 pick in the OHL, as well?
AARON EKBLAD: Yeah, the youngest, the guy under the most scrutiny, it always seems to follow me around. Like I said, that kind of pressure is motivation for me.

Q. (Inaudible) being the first defenseman in eight years to go first in the NHL draft?
AARON EKBLAD: Like I said, that's the burden of expectation, but I chase it. I want that burden of expectation. I want that feel for motivation, and I want to succeed under that.

Q. What will the Panthers see from you? What's your specialty?
AARON EKBLAD: Strong, responsible defense. That's the position I play, and that's what I plan on doing when I get there. Of course I want to contribute offensively, as well.

Q. Did Dale say anything cool to you when you first talked, not like tonight, after the pick? Did he have any words of wisdom?
AARON EKBLAD: Honestly I'll probably remember it later on. I can't remember right now what exactly was going on. I was a little bit blurry‑eyed, but maybe I'll figure it out later.

Q. Obviously when you're going to be a top pick, do you start looking at some of the teams that you might end up going to?
AARON EKBLAD: Of course. You look through who they have on their back end, right or left shots, all that kind of stuff. Obviously I was watching to see if Florida would get a new coach, all that kind of stuff. It lasted a while. It's pretty fun to just follow that after the season. Of course during the season you want to focus on winning games with your club team.

Q. That said, did you follow any of the trade talk or any of that stuff?
AARON EKBLAD: I followed it quite a bit. I think my roommate, Brendan Lemieux in Barrie was all over that stuff. It's pretty funny.

Q. Were guys tweeting you tonight before the draft?
AARON EKBLAD: Yeah, my phone was blowing up all night. I don't remember any of the specific trade rumors. I actually didn't have time to read all the tweets. I just wanted to scroll through them and see how many there were.

Q. Pretty impressive reaction you got in the trade market?
AARON EKBLAD: What do you mean, for people to trade up?

Q. All the teams that allegedly wanted to trade up for you?
AARON EKBLAD: That's cool. I didn't follow it all that closely, but they didn't.

Q. Just looking at the Panthers, what were some of the things you saw in the team as far as where you might fit in.
AARON EKBLAD: Obviously they have‑‑ well, right now they have three right‑handed shots, four lefts. I want to play on that team as a right‑handed shot and I want to play the power play and all that kind of stuff. Of course I'm going to be a young guy and they may have guys there already. I'm willing to step into a role and play a team game. I take pride in being a good teammate and all that kind of stuff. I'm there to learn at first. I'm going to be learning from some great players, some young guys who have just stepped in, some older players who have had storied careers. It's going to be a learning curve for me, and I want to keep that as short as possible so I can start making an impact.

Q. Talk about the fan reaction tonight when you got drafted No.1.
AARON EKBLAD: The fans of Philly?

Q. Yeah.
AARON EKBLAD: Honestly, like I said, I'm blurry‑eyed and I can't remember what happened. Were they excited or what? That's awesome. It's a great experience for me, a great opportunity, and I'm really looking forward to next year.

Q. When we spoke to you before the world juniors you told me you didn't expect to make that team and you told me you had a lot to learn this season. I guess between now and then, what do you feel has been your biggest improvement in your game?
AARON EKBLAD: Yeah, actually before the season even started I said I'd have to have a pretty unbelievable start to play for the world junior team. I thought that was a myth in its own to even be considered for that. So that's a pretty good accomplishment for sure. I worked a lot on my skating. Once you get into a routine of working on, whether it was my shot or my skating after practice, before practice every day, it turns into just something that becomes easy to you.

Q. What are your thoughts on living in Florida?
AARON EKBLAD: I love warm weather for sure. I think you can see the tan on me a little bit. But no, I think there's a lot of things you can get distracted from down there other than hockey, and I want to focus on hockey. That's what I'm there for, and during the season that will be my goal.

Q. What about golf?
AARON EKBLAD: I'm actually not much of a golfer at all, so that's a plus for them.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: Of course. There's certain things I want to do with my career. I actually keep those to myself.

Q. (Inaudible).
AARON EKBLAD: I've never really been a vocal guy. I have a lot to learn if I want to play in the NHL next year, and even if I am there, I'm still going to have a lot to learn from, like I said, some very special people.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports