The sunny state of Florida gets the feature, as the Panthers are reviewed.
Aaron Ekblad - Barrie Colts
The reigning OHL defenseman of the year and first overall pick, Ekblad had his best year to date in 2013. IMO, his game is 100% NHL ready. His offensive game improved significantly this year. He was more confident with the puck and began to start leading rushes up ice, using his size to protect the puck. His shot has always been huge, but he worked very hard to make it more accurate and to get his shot through on the powerplay. Defensively, he continued to be a stalwart. His skating improved a lot over his three year OHL career and he's now quite agile. Combined with his size and smarts, this has made him perhaps the toughest defender to beat one on one in the league. His intensity in the corners and in front of the net could stand to increase even more, especially to take full advantage of his size, but that's nitpicking. As I said, I think he's NHL ready and I'd be absolutely shocked to see him back in the OHL next year. I don't expect huge point totals in his first year. I'd say probably something like 8 goals, 20 points is a realistic expectation. As long as he can kind success in his own end first, that's most important.
Josh Brown - Oshawa Generals
Brown is what he is. A behemoth defender who plays with an edge and defends the crease quite well. His offensive game has never developed (he scored his first 2 OHL goals this year), and he's quick to chip the puck out of his own end. That's not what his game is. He's a stay at home prospect. For me, his skating still needs to improve significantly for him to be an NHL player. He can still be exposed off the rush and is a bit rough side to side and backwards. He is a terrific body checker though, and the type of guy who doesn't chase the big hit. He lets the game come to him. The Panthers have a choice to make with him next year. He was an overage draft pick in 2013 so he doesn't have to be signed yet despite being a '94. Florida can send him back to Oshawa for his overage OHL season. Or they can try to get San Antonio to take him in the AHL to acclimatize him to the pro game without giving him an ELC. My guess is that he'll be in San Antonio's camp and will be given a chance to make that team. If that doesn't work out, it'll be back to Oshawa where he'll be expected to work on his puck distribution skills and mobility in his own end.
*of note, Panthers 3rd rounder Juho Lammikko will be suiting up for the Kingston Frontenacs next year after being selected in the Import Draft. He'll have a chance to play a top 9, perhaps even top 6 role for them as they need some size up front.