Another year, another World Under-17 Hockey Challenge alumnus selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
The Florida Panthers used the top pick Friday night on defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who represented Ontario in 2012 in Windsor, Ont., and 2013 in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que.
Ekblad is the 17th U17 alumnus to go No. 1 since 1987.
The Belle River, Ont., native was the first of 80 alumni selected in the two-day draft, an increase over the 77 who heard their names called in 2013, and Ekblad led a group of 22 first-round picks who were U17 alumni, the most ever (the 2003 and 2013 drafts included 21 first-rounders).
Ekblad was one of two players selected who played at multiple World Under-17 Hockey Challenges – Daniel Audette, the 147th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens – represented Quebec in 2012 and 2013.
Most of the players selected were on the ice at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, including 11 that helped Sweden to its first-ever U17 gold medal (Englund, Engvall, Forsling, Johansson, Karlsson, Kempe, Lagesson, Lindblom, Nylander, Ollas Mattsson, Pettersson).
The United States, bronze medallist in Victoriaville and Drummondville, led the way with 14 2013 alumni selected, while Ontario, which finished sixth, had 12 picks. Quebec, the highest-finishing Canadian team in 2013, had six players chosen, while the silver medal-winning Russians had three.
When other alumni (late birthdays and players who went undrafted in previous drafts) are included in the totals, the U.S. led all Canadian regions and national teams, followed by Sweden, Ontario and Pacific.
CLICK HERE for a complete list of World Under-17 Hockey Challenge alumni selected at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The 80 alumni selected this year mean that since the tournament debuted as the Quebec Cup in 1986, more than 1,400 players with U17 experience have been chosen at the NHL Entry Draft, including 323 first-rounders and 17 No. 1 picks.
U17 ALUMNI SELECTED FIRST OVERALL AT THE NHL ENTRY DRAFT
2014 – Aaron Ekblad | Florida Panthers | 2012 & 2013 – Ontario 2013 – Nathan MacKinnon | Colorado Avalanche | 2011 & 2012 – Atlantic 2011 – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins | Edmonton Oilers | 2010 – Pacific 2010 – Taylor Hall | Edmonton Oilers | 2008 – Ontario 2009 – John Tavares | New York Islanders | 2006 – Ontario 2007 – Patrick Kane | Chicago Blackhawks | 2005 – United States 2006 – Erik Johnson | St. Louis Blues | 2005 – United States 2004 – Alexander Ovechkin | Washington Capitals | 2002 – Russia 2003 – Marc-André Fleury | Pittsburgh Penguins | 2001 – Quebec 2002 – Rick Nash | Columbus Blue Jackets | 2001 – Ontario 2001 – Ilya Kovalchuk | Atlanta Thrashers | 2000 – Russia 1998 – Vincent Lecavalier | Tampa Bay Lightning | 1997 – Quebec 1997 – Joe Thornton | Boston Bruins | 1995 – Ontario 1995 – Bryan Berard | Ottawa Senators | 1994 – United States 1993 – Alexandre Daigle | Ottawa Senators | 1992 – Quebec 1989 – Mats Sundin | Quebec Nordiques | 1988 – Sweden 1987 – Pierre Turgeon | Buffalo Sabres | 1986 – Quebec
CLICK HERE for an all-time list of World Under-17 Hockey Challenge alumni selected at the NHL Entry Draft.